Uncertainty seems to be the only constant during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Exchanges in the Eastern Region have been there for the military community through it all.
The Eastern Region team has been invaluable partners in the community, filling special command requests, such as supplying hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies to the Fort Eustis Child Development Center when those items were nearly impossible to find.
“We solve for yes,” said Joint Base Langley-Eustis General Manager Amanda Hartfield. “We do everything we can to help command.”
Hartfield received a letter of thanks from Maj. Gen. Lonnie Hibbard, Commanding General for the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training and U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, commending the Exchange team for its support.
“I cannot overstate the importance of the measures you have taken to protect your employees as well as those you serve,” Hibbard wrote. “Your tremendous work and selfless efforts allow this fight to be sustained and directly safeguard the members of our community and our fighting force.”
Eastern Region Exchanges are finding new ways to serve the community, even in challenging circumstances.
As many stores have established personal shopper programs to allow quarantined troops to buy snacks and toiletries, the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Exchange is also expanding the program to include fresh meals from Exchange restaurants. New Jersey has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, and JBMDL is also hosting 2,000 troops in quarantine who recently were serving at the Javits Center in New York City.
The 87th Force Support Squadron commander reached out to JBMDL Exchange General Manager Andrea Frazier to help handle the food requests from the quarantined troops. Frazier and her team are setting up a process similar to the personal shopper program that will allow those in quarantine to order from the Exchange food court, offering the troops more variety and helping the FSS team meet the demand for meals.
“Both command and the troops really appreciate that we’re willing to work within the situation to find a way to continue serving,” Frazier said.
In addition to providing necessities and meals, Eastern Region provides an important morale boost for the community at a time when stress can be high.
At Fort Jackson, the Exchange has worked with command to support recent basic training graduates who have finished their training, but are unable to travel to their first assignments because of the pandemic.
While the Exchange theater remains closed to the general installation population, the team has worked with unit commanders to host special screenings for the graduates to enjoy a movie and concessions, as well as a mental break. The unit drill sergeants assign seating in the theater to ensure proper distancing between the graduates, and all recommended safety guidelines are followed.
“It’s been a real morale booster for them,” Fort Jackson Exchange General Manager Thomas Kuttamperoor said. “Command is really happy and appreciative of these efforts.”
Exchanges’ strong partnership with local commands have been instrumental in providing services. At Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, the barber shops closed at command request but were worked quickly to meet new guidelines for reopening, including installing floor-to-ceiling “sneeze guards” between stations and removing nearly half the chairs to better space out customers and barbers.
“We were able to reopen so quickly because of our close partnership with command,” said Fort Stewart Exchange General Manager Hollie Heft Morales. “Command and our vendors trust that the Exchange has created a safe working environment.”
Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield Command Sgt. Maj. Rebecca Myers stopped by after the reopening to thank barbers for continuing to serve the troops. The Fort Stewart barber shop is currently serving about 120 Soldiers a day, while the smaller Hunter AAF shop serves about 15 a day.
At Fort Meade, Fort Detrick and Aberdeen Proving Ground, the Exchange has been in lockstep with command throughout the pandemic. General Manager Robin Boylan has been joining command virtual town halls to field Exchange questions in real time, and Fort Detrick Garrison Commander Col. Dexter Nunnally came to the Exchange to personally thank associates and present coins to several for their work.
“Every time command has reached out for assistance, Eastern region managers and associates have answered the call,” said Eastern Region Senior Vice President Bob White. “Despite the challenges, the stress, the evolving circumstances, Exchange store teams continue to shine. The associates deserve our thanks for their exceptional hard work and commitment to serving the best customers in the world.”