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Editorial Comment — February 2012

The Sound of Records Breaking ...

In the distance we are hearing the sound of breaking; never a good thing in a commissary or exchange, unless it's the sound of records breaking. Fortunately, that is indeed the case.

At Ramstein AB, Germany, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service's (AAFES) Kaiserslautern Military Community Center (KMCC) recently broke not one, but three sales records.

According to AAFES, none of its stores have ever broken the $20-million sales barrier in one month — at least until this past December — and that's when KMCC achieved that very feat. Kudos are due Main Store Manager Jason Rosenberg, the KMCC staff, General Manager John Sharp, regional and area personnel, supported by AAFES's Logistics and Sales directorates' buying, planning, allocation and replenishment teams, and their suppliers.

Never mind that, but they also trounced records for Black Friday sales, tallying more than $1.8 million — the largest one-day dollar sales amount ever recorded by an AAFES store. And on top of that, on Dec. 17, the store generated the highest sales ever by an AAFES exchange on a day not connected with a holiday or a Super Bowl.

Also at Ramstein, Commissary Store Director Harry Nichols and his staff, their suppliers and region and headquarters support teams can deservedly pause a moment to celebrate serving up more than $6 million in grocery sales during the month of December alone, to happy patrons in the area. This they've done despite a global recession, despite the transience of troops and units in and out of the European hub, and despite the fact that the only thing new about the store is the parking lot, as the long-anticipated renovations began, stalled, and began again, all at the mercy of local contractors.

And it's not just Europe; sterling performance is everywhere to be found. Sales and transactions are up, and military resale is thriving.

More patrons than ever are taking advantage of their benefit, and outreach programs to Guard and reserves are meeting and exceeding their goals.

In addition, the Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM) reported that for the second year in a row, its Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) survey results remained at an exchange service all-time high score of 83, besting the overall average retail industry score of 76 by seven points. The Marine Corps Exchanges (MCX), meanwhile, quietly enjoyed double-digit percentage sales increases in November, and more than 8 percent year to date. The Coast Guard Exchange System (CGES) and Veterans Canteen Service (VCS) are also both up more than 3 percent through November.

With all the turmoil in the rest of the world, it's encouraging to be able to shine a bright spotlight on some good news.

Planning Ahead for Families and Facilities ...

There's been a lot of talk recently about plans to shift or rotate two Brigade Combat Teams (BCT) — as many as 10,000 soldiers — out of Europe. While it's not for us to ponder military strategies, we ardently hope that enough lead-time is built into these movements, and that the military resale and morale, welfare, and recreation (MWR) communities are kept well advised.

We also hope, this time around, that more inclusive planning is conducted ahead of the fact at the highest tiers of oversight, so that when troops and their families are moved from one continent to another, there will be sufficient infrastructure in place to accommodate them, wherever they are restationed. With the financial pressures weighing on military families these days, these patrons need — and are making use of — their benefits, now more than ever. And that's not just resale facilities. Housing, schools, child-care facilities, fitness and recreation centers and family programs all come into play when troops and dependents shift en masse.

We've wrestled with such issues before, in Korea, Guam, and even Stateside, with Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) and past force restationing initiatives. Whether it's overcrowded facilities, lack of infrastructure or even unexpected environmental impact statements, hopefully plenty of lessons have been learned in the last decade. Two BCTs is an awful lot of troops to begin with, but although at their core these units comprise active-duty servicemembers, they can typically be accompanied by as many as 25,000 dependents. They'll need somewhere to live, shop, recreate, send their children to school and/or day care, as they deal with the relocations that are a regular part of military life. Their burden is a heavy one, and they deserve to be considered in the planning equation.

Welcome Back, Admiral Bianchi ...

To many of those in the resale marketplace, and no doubt at the Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM), it seems like only yesterday that Rear Adm. Robert J. Bianchi, SC, USN, was at the Navy Exchange helm. His passion for the NEXCOM mission was clear to all who met or worked with him when he wore the uniform. Once the resale benefit bug has bitten, its effects can endure, and in Bianchi's case its potency can mean nothing but fair winds and following seas for NEXCOM, for Sailors, and for the entire Navy family.

We bade Bianchi “Bravo Zulu” for a job exceptionally well done when he was reassigned from NEXCOM to become the assistant deputy chief of staff for Fleet Readiness and Fleet Supply Officer, and now we're especially glad to hear the bos'n pipe “the Admiral” aboard once again. No doubt there's a little catching up to do; resale can move very quickly in a couple of years, but Bianchi returns to a crew of many familiar faces, who possess an enormous depth and breadth of expertise.

While he was in Norfolk, Bianchi's successors and their Navy Exchange team upheld the NEXCOM ethos of delivering a superior benefit to patrons, refining business systems, streamlining the organization, and making Navy Exchange stores and services the destination of choice for all eligible patrons lucky enough to be near a Navy base.

There's little chance the Admiral had much opportunity to catch his breath the last two years, with so much responsibility for Fleet Readiness and Fleet Supply. And it's not likely to get any less busy for Admiral Bianchi following his retirement from the Navy — welcome back to the all-systems-go, non-stop world of NEXCOM!

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