Q&A with the Exchange’s New COO: Meet Jason Rosenberg
Jason Rosenberg, former senior vice president of Europe/Southwest Asia Region, is the Army & Air Force Exchange Service’s new chief operating officer. The Exchange Post talked with Rosenberg to learn more about his 31 years of service to the Exchange, his family serving family spirit and what lies ahead.
How did you first hear of the Exchange?
Some of my earliest memories are shopping at the Exchange. I was an Army brat growing up in Germany. Back then, there were a lot more military installations there, and weekends were all about going from Exchange to Exchange to shop at all the installations in the area. As a kid, the Exchange was the place to get video games or sneakers or the best milkshakes and burgers around at the “Snack Bar.” My mom and grandmother were avid Exchange shoppers and I always came along. I even remember all-nighters for Ramstein’s midnight madness sales!
When did you start working for the Exchange?
I was getting close to graduating high school in Germany, and my dad told me I wouldn’t have a [base] ID card once I graduated unless I got a job or went to college. I wasn’t ready for college at the time, and my dad mentioned that you get an ID card if you work for the Exchange. I applied and, after a few weeks of bugging the store manager at Kreuzberg (Zweibrucken) about my application, I was hired as a summer hire custodial worker. I quickly moved to sales associate and worked in Sight & Sounds [the PowerZone] and had a blast doing that. After a couple years, things were going well, and I began to think about this as a career. At age 22, I had my first PCS as a manager with the Exchange and that was when I was locked in. I knew I wanted to do this. My goal was to one day be a main store manager.
How is your family connected to the military?
Everybody in my family served. My grandfather served in the Army. He met and married my grandmother in Germany after World War II. My uncle served in the Air Force, my aunt was a military spouse, my dad served in the Air Force for more than two decades, and my stepdad served 22 years in the Army.
I wanted to serve the military, but I knew active-duty military wasn’t for me, so the Exchange was a perfect fit. Like [Exchange Director/CEO] Tom [Shull] says, there really is no greater honor than serving those who serve.
What was your most recent position before becoming chief operating officer?
I served as the Vice President for Europe/Southwest Asia for three years prior to assuming the Senior Vice President position in 2017.
How many different places have you lived during your Exchange career? Where was your favorite?
I’ve been assigned to 13 different locations. I’ve never had a bad assignment, but my 2004 deployment to Iraq was a favorite. It was such a special assignment. Anyone who deploys talks about what it means. Soldiers are so grateful for that taste of home that the Exchange brings to deployed locations. It’s such a humbling and gratifying experience. And it was such an adventure! From the helicopter flights to working with our associates from all over the world on the ground. It’s something I will tell my grandchildren about one day.
I also loved my Europe assignment. It’s home for me having grown up there. Being deployed or overseas, you really see the meaning of the Exchange for troops and families away from home. It magnifies the mantra of “We go where you go!”
Every assignment was special to me and I’m still in touch with people from every place I’ve been. These are the people and teams that have made me the leader and operator I am today. There is a piece of every one of those teams engrained in me.
What do you hope to bring to your new role?
My goal is always to leave a place better than I found it—an aggressive goal because we already do things that no company in the world does.
We’re in great shape thanks to Tom and [former COO] Dave [Nelson]. I want to keep building on what they’ve built and pay forward everything I’ve received in my 31 years with the Exchange. I want to continue to “build the bench,” helping develop and shape our future leaders in the organization, with diversity at the forefront. I’d like to see even greater gender and race diversity at all levels of leadership while continuing to drive our business growth in every channel. The goal is to make sure we’re strong for the next 125 years.
What’s ahead for the Exchange?
We’re going to keep expanding the ways we support our military—expanding our food portfolio, services and wellness options as well as adapting to the “new norm” in retail. We want to strengthen the Exchange from a business perspective—whenever we increase earnings, we increase dividends and organizational relevancy to shoppers and stakeholders.
You’ve been transitioning into the COO position amid the COVID-19 pandemic. How has that affected your approach?
COVID-19 has truly changed the world. One of my first objectives as COO was to visit a lot of the CONUS Exchanges I haven’t seen or don’t have much familiarity with, but I haven’t been able to do that due to the pandemic. We’re finding ways around the challenges posed by the virus. Take Microsoft Teams as an example—we’ve demonstrated that we can have productive online meetings, do virtual visits and host online award ceremonies, often with even greater flexibility than before.
From a business standpoint, by the time the pandemic is over—whenever that is—the retail landscape is going to look very different. We’ve already seen things like incredible spikes in demand for contactless shopping, home delivery and curbside pickup. Shoppers were already shifting more and more toward online, but COVID-19 has accelerated that behavior by at least five to seven years.
There will be a lot of unknowns, but the good news is the Exchange is weathering the storm—that’s what we do. We’re the combat retailer. We’ve been adjusting and have been able to do so without layoffs or furloughs. We’re still here, and we’re still going strong.
What do you like best about working for the Exchange?
Hands-down, the best part is the mission. Our mission of giving back and supporting troops is what makes us different from everybody else. A lot of people say they support the troops—and they do!—but everything we do is for our military. Whether getting a haircut, stopping for gas, grabbing food or buying a TV, the troops depend on the Exchange. And it doesn’t stop there. We give all the earnings back. The combat retail aspect of it is truly special. When I meet former military and they find out where I work, they all say the same thing: They remember when they were deployed and the Exchange was there for them. Our associates are cut from the same cloth as the military. Their loyalty and dedication is unsurpassed. The Exchange is truly family to me and I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else.
What are some of your favorite hobbies and activities outside of work?
I’m a big football and soccer fan. To unwind, I play a little FIFA soccer on my PlayStation every night!
I love to travel with my family—my wife, Melisa, who is a former Exchange associate I met in Iraq, and our two daughters Izabella and Madisyn, ages 12 and 14. I’m proud to say I’ve been to 51 different counties in my travels, and while COVID-19 slowed us down, we’re not done seeing the world yet. Family is extremely important to me and they’ve been amazing in supporting me along this journey. I would not be where I am today without them.