2016 Exchange Outstanding Associate with Disabilities

Worldwide Exchange Outstanding Associate with a Disability

Fairchild AFB, Wash.
In 2005, Hiromi was hired as a temporary part-time senior store associate in the shoe department and then moved to regular part-time store associate. In 2007, she worked with the operations squad, and in October 2011 Hiromi was selected to fill in as shift supervisor in softlines.

Hiromi quickly reorganized the department by setting clear goals for her associates. She allowed her crew to take ownership of their areas and help them develop personally and professionally. She set up displays and products which coincided with Exchange promotions and targeted holidays. Hiromi was selected to attend the Retail Management Academy and was also temporarily promoted to shift manager at the Express.

Hiromi was selected as the permanent manager for the position, but missed working in the main store. She graciously declined the manager’s position and returned to supervisor in the softlines department.

Hiromi is considered the “go to” supervisor and often willingly switches her schedule to help accommodate unforeseen problems. Hiromi has been selected as employee of the month three times. She has also been recognized with four “Thanks for Caring and Sharing” awards, one “Thanks for Making it Better” award, one “Excellence” award, and five Special Recognition Awards.

Hiromi volunteers at the Family Readiness Center, where she helps run the Airmen’s Attic. While there, Hiromi mentors high school students. Several of the students were so inspired by her dedication to the service members and their families that they decided to join the Exchange family. Two individuals have become supervisors themselves.

Hiromi has been praised by commanders and has been recognized multiple times as the volunteer of the quarter. She epitomizes the value of Families Serving Families, out-performs her peers with sheer work ethic, and has an unmatched personal drive, giving all to the greatest Customers in the world.


Eastern Region/JB McGuire-Dix, N.J.

Laborer/Stocker Stephen Polak works diligently maintaining the sales floor with merchandise in pristine order. Stephen effectively works outside his stocking position—and comfort zone—to assist customers with shoes, military uniforms and other merchandise throughout the facility.

His inner determination has driven him to overcome obstacles placed in his path. He has learned to keep his focus on his assigned tasks, which allows him to complete his assigned duties effectively.

Stephen graduated from Burlington County Institute of Technology School in 2008 in Westampton, N.J. Upon graduation, Stephen worked extremely hard to earn his certification in horticulture. He was employed with Voorhees Greenhouse before his job coach partnered with the local Exchange to find suitable employment with AAFES.

He accepted his current position with the Military Clothing Sales as a laborer/stocker in August 2010. Stephen was recognized by the Summer Youth Employment Program with a laptop computer for successfully completing the program.

Stephen stocks, assists customers and maintains custodial duties for the facility. Stephen is judicious in carrying out work assignments without directions and takes action in a logical, precise manner. He is consistent, dependable and accurate in carrying out responsibilities to a successful conclusion. Stephen requires minimum supervision to complete tasks.

During high school, Stephen was active with the Saddle Up, a program that utilizes horses as therapy for disabled children. He volunteers his time assisting neighbors with his gardening skills.

Stephen is always on time for work and has demonstrated an outstanding work ethic while always having a smile. He has developed a strong working rapport with co-workers and is well accepted by customers. Stephen has shown our associates, regardless of disability or situation in life, to “strive to be the best that you can be.”

Stephen’s perseverance to overcome obstacles is extraordinary and reflects great credit upon himself and the Army & Air Force Exchange Service.


Central Region/NAS Fort Worth JRB, Texas

Laborer Russell Bradley’s determination to overcome obstacles and prove himself a dependable, contributing member of the team is an inspiration to all his coworkers and managers. Russell accepts the challenges of his job with cheerful equanimity and succeeds in accomplishing all of the tasks set before him, in addition to supporting his coworkers by completing extra tasks.

Russell is the son of a career Air Force service member. From Little Rock, Ark., to Madrid, Spain, to points in between, Russell was ingrained with a reverence for the service of our military forces. He worked for the Exchange as a high school student, serving as a seasonal temporary worker
at McConnell AFB.

He earned his associate’s degree in computer science from Tarrant County College. Russell decided to apply for a job at the Exchange in 2002 at the then-Carswell AFB in Fort Worth. He was promoted from custodial worker to laborer.

Russell is always looking for opportunities to improve himself. He has volunteered with United Way and Red Cross, performing clerical duties to make himself more competitive in the job market. He has also volunteered with the Special Olympics and charity golf tournaments to demonstrate his “team player” attitude.
Russell says that his only disappointment in working for the Exchange is that he wasn’t chosen to serve on the Hurricane Katrina disaster response team. He is philosophical, though. He says, “I know that I’m needed here, and I always want to be where I am the most useful. But if I had the chance to serve more, that would make me really happy.”

Russell styles himself as the unofficial “ambassador” of the NAS Fort Worth JRB Exchange, creating lasting emotional connections with his customers. He knows many by name, and he has his “regulars” who count him as a true friend.

One favorite story of Russell’s brand of service recounts a time when one of his “regulars,” a man who always shopped on Sunday, couldn’t get a particular comb he wanted. Each Sunday, the man would shop, only to find that the Exchange had sold out of the weekly shipment of combs before he arrived. When Russell found out about the problem, he took it upon himself to buy a comb when the next shipment arrived and gave it to his customer on Sunday.

Recently, the general manager received a customer comment card from a short-term concessionaire, who noted that Russell goes well beyond his duties, even working diligently to escort a misguided bird out of the mall so it wouldn’t “damage” the merchandise or display units.

Russell is very emotionally connected to the mission of the Exchange, noting that since he couldn’t serve in the military like his father and brother did, this is his way of serving his country. His teammates value his contributions, and look to him as an example of what you CAN do when you put your mind to it. He demonstrates determination, optimism, and a can-do attitude each and every day.


Overseas Region/KMCC, Germany

Stocker/Laborer Raymond Jefferson’s Ray’s inspirational zest for life thrusts him forward to overcome all obstacles and leads those who work with him to achieve far greater challenges than thought possible.

Ray served his country for three years in the U.S. Army and started working for AAFES in March 1979 in Offenbach, Germany. In July 1982, he attended the Kaiserslautern Area Exchange Retail Management Training Center and continued to work as retail manager in Frankfurt, Giessen, Stuttgart, and Sembach/Kaiserslautern Exchange in 1987. He transferred within the Exchange in various management positions.

Ray has received four Excellence Awards, a Certificate of Appreciation, an Employee of the Quarter award and two Thanks for Caring awards.

Ray is a very experienced former facility manager, who extends his professional dedication into the aspects of his current position as stocker/laborer. He is very thorough, and always uses the customer’s perspective during his daily duties.

His integration to the team is seamless and he completes all the required duties of his shift without being asked. His communication is top-notch and his experience shines through during conversations regarding the facility in general. His anecdotal advice has proven very valuable, and he seems to always have a story that is pertinent to the current situation.

Ray was a workaholic before his disability and feels it was a sign that he needed to slow down. He has learned to adjust his everyday life around his disability. Ironically, if you didn’t know him, you probably wouldn’t realize he is blind.

His dependability on his job is commendable, coming to work through harsh winter weather when others without physical disabilities may find it difficult to accomplish. He has taught us all how the human spirit can ignite the flame we all carry, and to achieve more than we thought possible. Ray says that he was proud to serve his country while in the Army and is even prouder that he can continue to serve the military as an associate of the Exchange.


Overseas Region/Yokota AB, Japan

Warehouse Worker Rachel Blanchard’s contagious energy and enthusiasm are derivatives of her self-imposed need to be independent and engaging. Rachel stops at nothing to overcome challenges and push herself beyond limits.

Rachel was born in Columbus, Ga., on April, 15, 1992. Traveling the globe as a military dependent, Rachel has visited and lived in places most teens only read about in history books, including Washington, D.C., New York, Hawaii, Mexico, Germany, Italy, Austria, Korea, China and Guam. Rachel is a proud graduate of Yokota High School.

Rachel started with the Exchange in 2010 as a warehouse worker at Yokota, where she was responsible for organizing apparel according to type and brand. Through perseverance, she mastered the process, identifying merchandise by codes and labels and sorting by gender and sizes.

To pursue other opportunities, Rachel parted ways with the organization about a year later, only to return in June 2015 and continue her efforts as an independent, diligent member of the Exchange family. This time, she went to work in the Yokota food court, where she attends to hundreds of Airmen and their families daily.

Her magnetic personality is unwavering, overseeing a work area which spans over two floors covering more than 100 tables. Rachel effortlessly creates an exemplary dining experience for customers. Her pleasant disposition and friendly smile makes her approachable and indisputably likeable. Despite health issues, Rachel owns the best attendance record in her entire work area. “Everybody is so nice to me here,” is the common response when asked about her job.

Rachel has performed community service at numerous organizations on Yokota Air Base. From the U.S. Post Office to the Airman’s Attic, she has surpassed expectations with voluntary assignments to assist where needs persist. Additionally, she has provided service at the commissary, bowling alley and Samurai Café, stocking shelves, cleaning and assisting members of the military community.

One effort she holds near to her heart is participating at the base’s Special Olympics each year. Rachel has received numerous accolades by the Special Olympics, including being for the torch lighting ceremony for the 2010 Kanto Plain Special Olympics.

She never uses her disability as a crutch and she strives to do her best at everything no matter what life throws at her. Rachel is obsessed with being an achiever. She sets goals for herself and removes barriers to achieve them, including earning her own money working for the Exchange and learning how to access the base shuttle to get to and from work. Her inner strength and determination drives her to overcome obstacles. We salute Rachel’s talent and dedication.


Dallas HQ

Customer Service Assistant Linda Kemmitz has been an integral part of the Contact Call Center, proving excellent customer service on every occasion.

Ms. Kemmitz is a tenured phone agent with 13 years’ experience serving military customers.
She determinedly arrives early to work which keeps her from overexertion and allows her to complete her duties in an ample amount of time. This is proven in her phone adherence which is at 97.3%.

She also performs at her best, which is clearly displayed in her quality assurance scores in Ecom, 95.5% and ECP, 91.5%. The average quality assurance score overall is 93%.

Linda has previously been recognized for her service as Employee of the Month. One customer’s comment stated, “Ms. Linda was a blessing. I was struggling with placing an order and Linda walked me through it. She was so patient and I want you to know how much I appreciate everything Ms. Linda has done for me.”

Ms. Kemmitz graduated from Brownwood High School in Brownwood, Texas in 1966. After graduation, she took college courses at Howard Payne University in Brownwood. She continues her pursuit of education by taking additional training classes at the Exchange.

Ms. Kemmitz is an active member of the Red Hat Society, an international social organization of women that connects, supports and encourages women in their search of fun, friendship, freedom, fulfillment, and fitness while supporting members in the journey to get the greatest out of life. She serves as a role model for all women that no matter the obstacle, you can accomplish great things.

Her endless dedication to honoring service members makes her a prime candidate to represent the “Voice of the Exchange.”.


Logistics Directorate/Dan Daniels Distribution Center, Newport News, Va.

Accounting Assistant Gerry Tann is proud of his independence. Since he was 25, he has had his own apartment. He moved from North Carolina to Virginia in 1975, and worked at the Yorktown Coast Guard Station on Langley AFB and for the U.S.Census Bureau before applying for a job at the Dan Daniel Distribution Center, where he has worked for 19 years.

He is responsible for preparing accounting documentation for scanning and indexing, and completes his daily tasks with pride, an amazingly positive attitude and a great sense of humor. He jokes with his co-workers, has kind words to say and is always helpful and willing to assist anyone.

Mr. Tann is a dedicated associate, who is on time for work every day, focused on what needs to be accomplished and diligent in performing his assigned responsibilities. During his time at the distribution center, he has received three on the Spot Special Recognition Awards, one ‘Thanks for Serving’ award and three service awards.

Mr. Tann is very active in his church and is married to, Mattie, a pastor at the Spirit of Truth Christian Ministry, where Gerry serves as an elder. He teaches, preaches, is involved in outreach and places monthly orders for the church food bank.

He aims to treat everyone with respect. He has not let his disability stand in the way of living a full life, at work, in private or in his service to others. He never had the sense of not being accepted by people with or without disabilities. Instead of considering his condition a hardship, he just sees it as a normal, not a negative, part of his life.

Gerry has an irrepressible sense of optimism. Mr. Tann’s philosophy is best summarized in his own words: “You can do anything you set your mind to. Don’t let what people telling you that you can’t do (something) be your stumbling block.” He is proving that this is true every day.

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