‘It Makes Us Feel Better’: Exchange Delivers a Lifeline for Soldiers Supporting NATO Mission in Poland

BEMOWO PISKIE TRAINING AREA, Poland – For nearly 1,000 Soldiers serving at the tip of the spear as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) in Poland, reminders of home are close at hand thanks to a 53-foot-long Army & Air Force Exchange Service trailer parked on the Polish installation.

Since the end of March, the Mobile Field Exchange (MFE) has brought cold drinks, microwavable meals and supplies—even TVs and Xboxes—to U.S. Soldiers with Battle Group Poland at Bemowo Piskie Training Area (BPTA), just 100 miles from the Russian border. The U.S.-led multinational battle group, one of four such combat-ready groups operating in Eastern Europe, strengthens NATO’s posture of deterrence and defense while sending a visible signal that an attack against one ally is an attack against all.

While the Exchange has MFEs and troop stores to take care of Soldiers as the Army’s mission expands throughout Eastern Europe, the trailer at BPTA is the only one to serve U.S. troops supporting a NATO mission.

“The Exchange’s service at the tip of the spear represents the very best of what we do,” said Director/CEO Tom Shull. “We are all in to support Soldiers serving with NATO’s Battle Group Poland to ensure they remain ready and resilient. Familiar products and a warm smile can make home seem not so far away.”

Spc. Noah Campbell of Fox Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, who has been at BPTA for three months, appreciates the familiar products the Exchange provides. He stops by the MFE daily for drinks and snacks.

“If I’m going out to the field for a couple days, I’ll stock up so I can have stuff I can snack on in the field if I ever get tired of MREs,” Campbell said. “Thank you to all the people who put this together so we can have a little piece of home. It makes us feel better.”

For Lt. Matthew Medlin, who’s been away from his home near Washington, D.C., for almost a year, the Exchange’s energy drinks and tuna are his lifeline back to the States.

“The Exchange has been a real morale booster,” Medlin said. “The guys are able to get a lot of things that they couldn’t get on the economy here—things that remind them of home. It’s really nice having the Exchange follow us.”

Besides offering drinks, snacks and supplies, the Exchange also has a two-chair barber shop operating in a tent across from the MFE. Sgt. Ian Vincent, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, says Soldiers rely on the service.

“If we couldn’t come here, we’d be practicing on each other,” Vincent said. “We’d be looking a mess.”

The five-person Exchange team works hard to meet Soldiers’ needs. If Soldiers can’t find what they need, team leader Mickeal Jenkins can special order merchandise from Grafenwoehr.

“A couple of months ago, a customer asked for an Xbox,” Jenkins said. “I made sure with Command that it was OK, and he said it was perfectly fine, and I was able to bring some in. Customers have also requested TVs—and that’s an item we now keep in the store.”

2nd Lt. David Truong knows firsthand the kind of personal service Jenkins and his team provide. Jenkins ordered additional ear protection after his was destroyed in the field.

“The manager was very helpful in getting me the supplies I needed,” Truong said.

Truong also appreciates the comforts of home the MFE provides—chips, tuna and the occasional cream soda.

“We know that behind every soldier, there are 10 more people behind us supporting us,” Truong said. “Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”

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The Army & Air Force Exchange Service goes where Soldiers, Airmen and their families go to improve the quality of their lives through goods and services provided. Exchange earnings provide dividends to support military morale, welfare and recreation programs. The Exchange is part of the Department of Defense and is directed by a Board of Directors, responsible to the Secretaries of the Army and Air Force through the Chiefs of Staff. To find out more about the Exchange history and mission or to view recent press releases please visit our Web site at http://www.aafes.com/about-exchange/public-affairs/press-releases.htm or follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ExchangePAO.

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Media Notes:

For more information or to schedule an interview with an Exchange representative please contact Julie Mitchell, 214-312-3327 or [email protected]

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