Going all the way back to the Revolutionary War of the 1700s, rag-tag bans of merchants called "sutlers" travelled throughout the country selling their products to U.S. soldiers.
They were especially popular during the Civil War of the mid-1800s, but soon military officials wanted to find new ways to provide the products to their soldiers to keep them on base and not going into town, where they could wind up in trouble.
Here are the red-letter dates for the organization known today as the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, a $10 billion retail giant that serves "the best customers in the world."
1800s back to top
1895: The War Department issued General Order Number 46 directing commanders to establish an exchange at every post, where practicable.
1910s back to top
1917: The first real test of the post exchange system came when the United States entered World War I, but the stores were unable to meet the needs of the greatly expanded Army. Civilian welfare agencies provided canteen services for American troops during the war.
1918: After the war, the U.S. secretary of war sent a committee headed by writer and lawyer Raymond Fosdick to Europe to study troop morale.
In 1919, Fosdick's committee recommended that the Army provide its own system for furnishing morale and canteen activities to the troops.
The first documented use of term "PX" was found in the book of exchange council meetings (1910-1920) at Fort McKinley in the Philippines. Exchanges were usually referred to as "canteens."
1920s back to top
1921: The first centralization of post exchanges in Hawaii took place at Schofield Barracks. Post exchanges replaced all regimental and associated activities in the various organizations.
1930s back to top
1933: Congress placed the first restrictions on post exchange operations and required the first official justification for military exchanges.
1939: Lessons learned from World War I led to increased developments and improvements of the military exchange system—and just in time.
1940s back to top
1941: The Army Exchange Service (AES) was nearly six months old when the U.S. entered World War II in December. Within several years had extended services to most locations wherever U.S. troops were deployed. "Serving those who serve" became the mission of the AES as military operations expanded in Europe, the Pacific and back home. "We go where you go" became a reality.
1942: As the number of Soldiers fighting in WW II increased, the immensity of supplying the troops worldwide became the most immediate challenge. At some locations, exchanges were restricted to the sale of articles of convenience and necessity. Rationing was common. PX operations during WW II were varied and spread across the globe.
The AES issued its first catalog, which generated 80,000 orders from American troops stationed overseas. Some overseas exchange systems developed their own gift catalogs, featuring merchandise indigenous to the areas.
Following the end of hostilities in Europe, the AES continued supporting the occupation forces. Post WW II operations in war-ravaged Europe saw an increase in AES operations. Nearly 80 new exchanges were required to supply immediate needs of the Soldiers and their dependents. For most Soldiers serving overseas, the AES represented a second family, because exchange employees were friendly and the items carried in the PXs reminded them of home.
1948: The federal government creates the U.S. Air Force, and the Army Exchange Service changed its name to the present-day Army and Air Force Exchange Service, otherwise known as AAFES.
1950s back to top
1950: Four years after the Korean Conflict began, regional offices were introduced in the U.S. Six years later, worldwide fiscal integration would take effect. The reorganized Army and Air Force Exchange Service sought to improve customer satisfaction in its stores in Korea during and after the Korean War as well as throughout the world through rapid building of new stores and expansion of merchandise, as well as the use of mobile exchanges where bricks-and-mortar facilities could not be built. As troop populations shifted, so did the exchanges. Efforts to nourish Soldiers' essential needs became the exchanges primary objective. AAFES strived to maintain the welfare and the morale of the troops. Although at war, the PX would offer a little bit of home to war-weary Soldiers and Airmen.
1952: Mobile exchanges began operating extensively in Korea when 18 buses converted into literal stores-on-wheels began serving Soldiers of the 8th Army in the forward combat areas. The mobile exchanges were used in "Operation Reindeer," a program that provided gift items to troops for holiday shopping.
1954: AFEX began operations in Spain, Netherlands and Italy.
1960s back to top
1965: During the Vietnam War, exchange operations were transferred from the Navy exchanges, beginning the Vietnam Regional Exchange. The principle of the mobile units from the Korean conflict was developed into tactical field exchanges (TFE) in Vietnam. TFEs were operated by the military in areas where there were no AAFES operations.
In Vietnam, the exchanges faced with the problems of setting up and operating food outlets to serve troops with essentially the same American foods that they could find at home in America. Training local Vietnamese with correct food preparation and sanitation was complicated with the technical problems of storage and refrigerated food transportation because of the hot, Vietnamese climate.
1969: A one-year test began on "integrated management" for exchanges in the continental United States s at Sixth Army posts and Strategic Air Command bases. Under this concept, AAFES, through the area support centers, rather than the commanders, operated and managed exchanges.
1970s back to top
1970: Based on the favorable results of the one-year test, AAFES began operating all Army and Air Force exchanges in the continental United States, the first step of worldwide integrated exchange management.
1972: With announcement of a major escalation in the rate of troop withdrawals in Vietnam, AAFES stopped sending goods to the country and began deactivating the Vietnam Regional Exchange. From this time until 1975, however, AAFES still served the troops.
1973: The Vietnam Regional Exchange entered the area of Post Redeployment. From this time until 1975, operations were carried out somewhat routinely.
1975: As Saigon began falling to the North Vietnamese, merchandise and equipment were shipped out of the country using every available means. However, up until the final withdrawal day, the exchange provided support. The final associates opened the exchange on the morning of April 28 and were hastily evacuated the next day.
1980s back to top
1981: After the inauguration of President Reagan, 52 hostages held in Iran were freed. AAFES was involved in preparing for their return, hanging "Welcome Home" banners and getting the retail store and food court in Wiesbaden, Germany, ready for their visit. AAFES associates prepared for everything, knowing that that the hostages would receive their first haircuts, first hamburgers, and first cigarettes in AAFES stores since their release after 444 days of captivity.
1983: AAFES responded to the military's Operation Urgent Fury on the Caribbean island of Grenada, the first of deployment since the withdrawal from Southeast Asia. U.S. troops invaded the tiny country of 100,000 people to help the government defeat a military coup.
1984: AAFES starts a long relationship with Burger King by opening the first BK on a military installation, the restaurant at Katterbach/Ansbach, Germany.
1989: AAFES supported Operation Just Cause in Panama, the military exercise to overthrow Panamanian dictator Manual Noriega. What AAFES associates didn't know, however, was their experiences would serve as a rehearsal for the challenges ahead in the Middle East.
1990sback to top
1990: Operation Desert Storm/Shield became the largest deployment of U.S. Forces since World War II. AAFES prepared to go to war as a worldwide command, building up its support virtually from scratch. AAFES' operations would be the litmus test for the efficiency of a centralized, worldwide exchange system for the Army and Air Force. Soldiers and Airmen, as well as troops from other countries expelled Iraqi troops from Kuwait.
Perhaps the most significant AAFES achievement during the early Desert Shield was setting up a distribution center in the Middle East. Once established, the Saudi Distribution Center worked virtually non-stop supporting both AAFES and troop-run imprest-fund sites.
1991: AAFES associates experienced their first bomb attack on Jan. 16. The next day, Operation Desert Shield became Desert Storm. Hostilities ceased Feb. 27, and Army Central Command requested a PX be established within Kuwait City. This became an extremely important morale booster to Soldiers, who were fighting only the heat and loneliness. AAFES operated the only store in the whole country of Kuwait.
AAFES also supported Reserve and National Guard units providing humanitarian assistance, such as building roads, drilling wells and constructing medical clinics in El Salvador, Honduras and other Central American countries.
AAFES provided support during national emergencies, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes and forest fires. Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted for the first time in 600 years, destroying Clark AB. AAFES provided evacuation support at U.S. points of entry and in Guam, where 18,000 evacuees arrived at Andersen AFB. In Okinawa, AAFES set up tactical field exchanges in tents for refugees clearing customs and immigration. Total damages to AAFES facilities hit more than $13 million.
1992: AAFES provided support in Operation Restore Hope and Operation Continued Hope in Mogadishu, Somalia. The operations were U.S.-led United Nations efforts to protect humanitarian operations in the war-torn country.
1993: AAFES deployed to Skopje, Macedonia, in support of Operation Able Sentry, a U.N. sponsored operation to keep ethnic conflicts and possible genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina from spreading.
1994: AAFES-Europe set up a tactical field exchange in Entebbe, Uganda, to support military personnel assisting with the influx of refugees fleeing. AAFES and the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) team up to support over 20,000 American troops deployed to Haiti during Operation Uphold Democracy to restore a duly-elected government thrown out by a military coup.
1995: Among the activities to celebrate AAFES' 100th anniversary, One Hundred Years of Service: A History of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service was published.
AAFES links with other military exchanges to provide the first joint service exclusive-label products—American Mercantile film and single-use cameras. AAFES itself began offering its first exclusive-brand products, including calling cards, tools, housewares, antifreeze and pet products.
The first BXmarts, the equivalent of convenience stores in the private sector, open at Carswell AFB, Texas, Homestead, AFB, Fla., and March AFB, Calif.
AAFES opens a 162,000-square-foot exchange at Fort Lewis, Wash., the largest exchange on a U.S. Army base. In addition, the 100,000-square-foot Warrior Way store at Fort Hood, Texas, opens.
AAFES opened two exchanges in Hungary followed by a unit by the Sava River to support troops with the peace initiative in Bosnia. AAFES operated more than 20 exchange facilities in Croatia, Hungary and Bosnia during Operation Joint Endeavor, the United Nations peacekeeping mission aimed at ending ethnic strife in the Balkans.
1996: AAFES began supporting 20,000 U.S. troops sent to Bosnia. AAFES started operating three primary locations and an intermediate support base near Kaposvar, Hungary; a logistics support area near Zagreb, Croatia, and Tuzla, Bosnia. Eight exchanges were created at Tuzla Main (Eagle Base), Tuzla West (Comanche), Tuzla East (Steel Castle), Lukavac, Kime, Gradacac (Gentry), Bedrock and Harmon.
Through snow, icy waters and mud, AAFES transformed in record time desolate sites in Bosnia into retail sites that continued to serve Soldiers and Airmen well into the 21st century.
Standard & Poor's recognizes AAFES as being in the top 5 percent of U.S. retailers for business operations.
The AAFES home page on the Internet debuted. Exchange customers could get information about AAFES and military installations in their area or shop at the Exchange Online Store, which eventually was dubbed "the largest BX/PX in the world" and one that "stays open 24 hours a day." Shoppers could buy merchandise from AAFES from the comforts of their homes and regardless of how far away they lived from a bricks-and-mortar exchange.
Associates deploy to Atlanta, Ga., to serve 10,000 troops handling security at the 1996 Summer Olympics. Starbucks, Manhattan Bagel, Church's Chicken, A&W Root Beer and Taco Bell join the AAFES family of name-brand restaurants.
1998: Reacting to renewed threats to Kuwait by the Iraqi government, AAFES was called into action to support troops in Saudi and Kuwait taking part in Operation Desert Thunder.
AAFES open field exchanges in Central America to serve U.S. forces sent to El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala to help families devastated by Hurricane Mitch.
AAFES debuts its exclusive label Passports and Passports Plus casual clothing for misses and women's sizes.
In its biggest technology recognition to date, AAFES wins the Computerworld Smithsonian Award for its workflow system that transformed accounts payable from a paper-based process to an electronic workflow and imaging process. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates had nominated AAFES for the award.
AAFES open field exchanges in Central America to serve U.S. forces sent to El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala in an effort to help families devastated by Hurricane Mitch.
1999: A veteran team of AAFES associates with previous contingency experience arrived at the Tirana airfield in Albania to set up field exchanges in support of Operation Novel Anvil, NATO's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in the Bosnia/Kosovo conflict. Sales from AAFES' Web site, www.aafes.com, topped $6 million, the highest total since the site debuted in 1996.
AAFES and MCI WorldCom link up in a $1.5 billion agreement to provide pay phones, traditional and pre-paid calling cards, direct-dial phones, residential services and Internet access at military installations around the world. AAFES also is ranked fourth among Information Week's E-Business 100 list for its dedication to providing a vast range of services and online sales.
Under the Reel Time banner, AAFES operates 165 movie theaters around the world.
2000s back to top
2000: AAFES began managing proprietary credit-card services for all military exchanges. The effort consolidated the AAFES DPP program and with the Navy exchange's NEXCARD program into a single exclusive-label card known to 1.8 million users as the MILITARY STAR card.
2001: After the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists flew highjacked passenger planes into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. AAFES associates much needed relief to rescue operations at the two sites, setting up tactical field exchanges to provide basic necessities to troops and other emergency personnel.
In addition, AAFES associates continued their tradition of supporting the military by setting up stores and services in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emeritus and Kuwait. In what became known as Operation Enduring Freedom, U.S. forces launched a major attack on the Taliban-ruling government of Afghanistan, where terrorists linked to the 9/11 disaster were given sanctuary. By December 2002, AAFES operated more than 32 stores throughout the Middle East and Southwest Asia.
2002: Maj. Gen. Kathryn Frost becomes the first woman to be named AAFES commander. She had served as vice commander in the late 1990s. In addition, Marilyn Iverson was named the first female chief operating officer at AAFES after she worked her way up through the management ranks.
AAFES tactical field exchanges supported more than 7,000 key personnel at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The Exchange Select exclusive brand replaces all AAFES brand and American Mercantile items found at all military exchange stores. The range of products saved customers up to 50 percent on prices they would normally pay for name brands. The Exchange Select products included over-the-counter medicine, household cleaning supplies, and personal hygiene merchandise, among other categories.
AAFES swept the Popeyes International Division Silver and Gold Plate awards, winning all three Silver Plates and the only International Gold Plate. In addition, Blimpie's recognized AAFES with its 2002 Institutional Partner of the Year award.
AAFES responded to an urgent request by Fifth Army Logistics to deploy its services to support the more than 1,200 soldiers and firefighters sent to suppress wildfires in the northwest United States.
2003: AAFES faced its greatest challenge when the United States decided to face down Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi regime. As tens of thousands of troops poured into the Middle East, AAFES moved heaven and earth to be there, working around the clock to open new stores in remote locations where there was only sand as far as the eye could see. Energetic associates built stores in trailers, tents and prefabricated facilities, and stocked and staffed them at record pace.
By the time coalition forces crossed into Iraq, AAFES operated 23 stores in the area where the troops staged the attack. AAFES followed the troops into Iraq, opening its first store at Talil AB on April 9. Americans wishing to show their support to Soldiers in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom and their Families could buy and send "Gifts for the Homefront" gift certificates that service members or Family members could then redeem at AAFES stores.
Col Shelley Richardson and Col. Andrea Michelle Gardner-Ince become the first women named regional commanders of the Europe and Pacific regions respectively. Burger King awarded AAFES special recognition for outstanding contributions to its business. The award acknowledged AAFES' commitment to providing quality service to Soldiers and Airmen and their families around the world.
Best of the Pacific magazine named the AAFES Web site, www.aafes.com, as the best in retail/services.
2004: The National Retail Federation awarded AAFES the American Spirit Award for exceptional achievement in supporting troops fighting the Global War on Terror in the Middle East. Past recipients of the prestigious award were Presidents Jimmy Carter and George Herbert Walker Bush and U.S. Sen. Bob Dole.
Oser Communications group, publisher of Consumer Electronics Daily News, named AAFES one of the retailers of the year.
Popeyes awarded AAFES with the International Franchise of the Year award, one of many awards AAFES wins from its brand-name restaurant partners.
AAFES was named one of the Top 10 companies for Asian-Americans by Diversity Inc. magazine.
AAFES opened the first indoor movie theater for troops in Iraq at Camp Anaconda at Balad. AAFES provided the sound, projection and the food as a way of bringing "a taste of home" to Soldiers serving in Iraq.
The AAFES Sales Directorate's Linens and Domestics team was presented with the International Service Award by the Home Fashion Products Association.
AAFES was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation by the Secretary of the Army for its outstanding support of U.S. service members serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
2005: Oser Communications Group, publisher of Consumer Electronics Daily News, once again named AAFES as Consumer Electronics Daily News World Retailer of the Year. This year marked the fourth straight time that AAFES was recognized by Consumer Electronics Daily News.
AAFES opened a bazaar at Camp Liberty, Iraq, on Jan. 12 to provide more shopping for Soldiers and to help Iraq take another step forward in the rebuilding of the country.
AAFES customers in Korea received more name-brand restaurants. Two Subway sandwich shops opened to the delight of customers at Osan AB and Camp Carroll.
Troops serving in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom enjoyed access to communication tools that most veterans only 10 years ago could only dreamed about. Deployed service members not only had communication capabilities, but many choices on how to communicate. A limited number of tax-subsidized minutes were available to troops for "official" free phone calls each month. The Internet offered them instant chat and e-mail, while AAFES and AT&T joined to open phone centers throughout the Middle East where troops could make as many paid called as they desired.
Sarah Latona Briggs became the first AAFES associate in its 109-year history to receive the Defense of Freedom Medal. The civilian equivalent of the military's Purple Heart, the Defense of Freedom Medal honored civilian employees of the Department of Defense who were injured or killed in the line of duty. Briggs suffered multiple injuries during an attack on a convoy she was driving in while deployed with AAFES to Iraq. After being released from the hospital, she returned to work at the Mountain Home AFB in Idaho.
AAFES continued to expand its selection of name-brand restaurants in Afghanistan, Iraq and throughout the Middle East with the additions of Taco Bell, Cinnabon, Pizza Inn, Dairy Queen, Orange Julius and Popeyes. AAFES also opened the first name-brand restaurant—a Burger King—in Djibouti, Africa. AAFES' first Taco Bell opened in Iraq on July 10. More than 475 troops were served on the first day, consuming more than 3,000 tacos and 641 burritos.
Marvel Comics gave out 1 million copies of a special edition New Avengers comic book to troops and their Families. The comics were free gifts and tributes to the military. As thanks
to AAFES for sponsoring the publishing of the comic books, Marvel embedded the AAFES
logo throughout the comics.
AAFES multimedia division won Telly awards for its worldwide video productions. Founded in 1979, the Telly is the premier award honoring outstanding local, regional and cable TV commercials and programs, as well as the finest video and film productions.
On July 23, BS/PX facilities around the world and associates at AAFES headquarters in Dallas honored the organization's 110th anniversary with sales, promotions and sweepstakes.
The summer and fall of 2005 saw a record number of hurricanes hit the U.S. coasts, including Hurricane Katrina that devastated much of New Orleans and destroyed the BX at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Miss. AAFES provided aid and comfort to those military members, Families, retirees and associates caught in their paths by setting up mobile exchanges in New Orleans, Biloxi and Gulfport, Miss. Throughout the world, AAFES associates raised money for their coworkers who were affected by the storms, while the organization waved interest and payments for MILITARY STAR Card customers from those areas. Customers could donate AAFES gift cards that could be used at any AAFES facility by hurricane victims.
2006: Darren Braswell, an associate at the Atlanta Distribution Center, became the first AAFES employee killed in the line of duty while he was deployed to Iraq. On Jan. 7, the Blackhawk helicopter caring Braswell and 11 others crashed after being fired upon in heavy rain and sustained winds. In 2009, AAFES renamed a multimedia auditorium at its Dallas headquarters after Braswell.
The Fort Belvoir community witnessed "history in the making" when AAFES celebrated the grand opening of the Fort Belvoir Town Center, the first of its kind in the Army. The Town Center incorporated residential housing and 11 AAFES retail shops in a Main Street-type atmosphere. The Town Center included a Starbucks coffee shop, RAC Military Rentals, and barber shop amid 25 residential units and a Welcome Center for Soldiers and their Families.
True to its motto of "We Go Where You Go," AAFES mobilized its next-generation tactical field exchanges to support 550 Soldiers helping control wildfires across Washington State's Okanogan and Wenatchee national forests. The mobile equivalent of a stationary PX/BX on Army and Air Force installations, the 40- to 53-foot TFEs supported contingency deployments. Military operations in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo validated the need for this quality of life support to deployed service.
To date, more than 1,700 AAFES associates have deployed to dangerous places around the world, including Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. The associates, as well as those who deployed in future years, were dedicated to proudly "serve those who serve."
2007: AAFES began taking significant steps toward reducing the military's environmental footprint. In addition to a new energy management team, AAFES became an Energy Star partner and began selling a large number of Energy Star appliances in stores around the world. AAFES also became a member of the U.S. Green Building Council and started to incorporate earth-friendly materials in the building of stores and other facilities. The objectives of AAFES' Energy Program include the elimination of waste in existing facilities, increased energy efficiency in new construction and renovation as well as a 30 percent reduction in energy consumption by 2015.
Authorized exchange shoppers looking for high quality, name-brand items at great prices need look no further than the 2007 Name Brand Supplement. Scheduled for release on Jan. 9, 2007, the first 30-page catalog was packed with top-brand electronics, sporting goods, giftware, toys and much more. Another first for the catalog was the inclusion of a promotional code good for a one-time 10 percent savings off an entire order.
The latest series of AAFES' OIF/OEF POG's included a different look. Three of the standard set have been designed and produced as "lenticulars," printed images that show depth or motion as viewing angles change. The results were dramatic, eye-catching pieces that captured the attention of the person viewing the product.
AAFES marked five years of service to the troops serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. From merchandise sold out of the back of a Toyota Landcruiser in 2003, AAFES' operations grew to 56 BX/PXs, 19 troop-run exchanges, 98 name-brand restaurants and hundreds of other services throughout Iraq. About 450 AAFES associates were deployed voluntarily to Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East to support Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
As of March 31, nearly 157,000 people had ordered 270,000 Military Exchange Prepaid Phone cards for Soldiers, Airmen, National Guard members and Reservists serving in the Middle East fighting the Global War on Terror. The "Help our Troops Call Home" program debuted four years ago.
A team of more than 200 AAFES associates finished implementing the $177 Project Retek's Oracle Retail, the largest information technology project in the company's 113-year history. The sophisticated technology, which also was used by many of the country's retail giants, began helping AAFES tap the retail industry's best merchandising, allocation, replenishment, forecasting, pricing and inventory management practices. AAFES leaders estimated that Oracle Retail would boost earnings $84.6 million by 2012.
In May, AAFES Commander Maj. Gen. Keith Thurgood presented Bety Desil, a forewoman for Einstein's Bagels at Fort Hood, Texas, with the federal government's Defense of Freedom award—the civilian equivalent of the Purple Heart—for being injured in the line of duty while she was deployed to Iraq. In 2007, mortars struck Camp Cuervo in Iraq, where Betty was working in the PX. The explosions sent dozens of pieces of shrapnel deep into her foot. In October 2007, she returned to work after recovering from her injuries. She is the fourth AAFES associated presented with the metal, all for service in Iraq. She joined Sarah Briggs, Rebecca Pember, Maria Malek and Brian Sonntag as AAFES associates receiving medals.
AAFES entered 2008 with firm sustainability goals of reducing energy consumption by 3 percent a year, reducing waste, cutting consumption of petroleum products 10 percent by 2015, increasing the amount of reusable plastic bags, and increasing recycled office paper by 15 percent. AAFES also continued adding to its already extensive line of Energy Star refrigerators, washers and dryers, DVD players and other products.
AAFES' technology investments and streamlined decision-making are enabling the company to match wits with its most ferocious competitors, according to a major business publication. In July, Retailing Today's "2008 Annual Top 150 Annual Industry Report" ranked AAFES as 28th on the list of top 150 retailers. The report includes profiles of AAFES and 11 other "most venerable, highest-volume retailers" whose "influence on retailing cannot be overstated." The AAFES profile said "the organization's philosophy about how to manage its business also has evolved in a way that puts it on an equal footing with best-in-class retailers against whom it competes."
AAFES took to the road again to join the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) in 40 joint sales promotions at National Guard and Reserve basis around the continental United States and Hawaii. Many of the Guard members, Reservists and their Families live great distances from brick-and-mortar exchanges. About 25 percent of the 11.5 million Armed Forces members eligible to shop in AAFES changes come from the Guard and Reserves. The promotions began a push directed by AAFES Commander Maj. Gen. Keith Thurgood—himself a member of the U.S. Army Reserves—to reach out to Guard and Reserve members more aggressively.
Three AAFES catalogs were named finalists is the prestigious 2008 MultiChannel Merchant Awards competition. The Baby Book 2007, Outdoor Living 2007 and Home Décor Summer 2007 finished as finalists from among 180 entrants in the competition. The Web site, www.aafes.com, finished as a finalist in the international Web category. AAFES joined such household names as FAO Schwartz and L.L. Bean in the finalist groups.
In the summer of 2008, to help cities, towns and people recover and get back to normal after Hurricane Ike struck the Texas Gulf Coast, 7,500 National Guard members and other troops deployed to the Houston area. Associates from Texas exchanges jumped into action the day after the hurricane struck to set up and operate a 53-foot mobile field exchange at Ellington Field in Houston to serve the troops. A few days later, they moved the exchange-on-wheels to Galveston.
2009: Now a $10 billion retail giant, AAFES operates more than 3,000 food, entertainment and retail stores throughout the world and online, and sells nearly 880,000 products from socks and shoes to the most popular consumer electronic devices.
AAFES' 133 optical shops, 34 Vision Centers and two dental clinics operated in 17 countries, including Kuwait, and register more than one million patient visits a year. The clinics bring in $45 million in annual revenue. Thirteen more Vision Centers and four dental clinics were awaiting congressional approval for construction and 13 others had gotten green lights.
AAFES seeks to serve troops deployed to isolated regions of Afghanistan through "air assault PXs." The 5-by-8 metal containers no bigger than a typical laundry room in a house were airlifted by Chinook helicopters to the isolated mountainous regions along the Afghanistan border with Pakistan.
AAFES senior leaders develop the organization's first "strategic goals" for the next five years. The goals were develop a lifelong emotional connection with our customers; build a culture of loyalty, ownership, sustainability and continuous improvement; provide expeditionary and mission support capabilities to "go where you go;" be the premiere collaborative partner with federal and commercial entities; and communicate the benefit, value and capabilities of AAFES.
LATINA Style magazine recognized AAFES with an honorable mention as one of the best companies for Latinas to work in the United States. The award is yet another in a string of recognitions for AAFES' diversity program.
AAFES expanded its award-winning Internet site, www.aafes.com, with as many as 3,600 online auctions in which customers could bid and get great deals on everything from jewelry to sporting goods. Daily, more than 800 customers visited the auctions, resulting in gross sales hitting more than $98,000.
The Fort Leonard Wood PX in Missouri won the first Commander's Cup, an annual recognition started by AAFES Commander Maj. Gen. Keith Thurgood to recognize the top-performing exchange.
AAFES began revitalizing the appearances of its popular PowerZone consumer electronics departments in which customers could interact with the latest in technology gizmos, including TVs, computers, cell phones, iPods, video games and other wizardry.
AAFES breaks ground on the Freedom Crossing Lifestyle Center at Fort Bliss, Texas. The center would resemble a small village of streets anchored by an AAFES exchange and DeCA commissary with well-known third-party retailers in between. The lifestyle center would be the first one of its kind on any military installation in the world. AAFES also began planning to build a similar center at Fort Lewis, Wash. Both lifestyle centers were aimed to meet the thousands of Soldiers and their Families who were being redeployed to the bases under the Defense Department's troop realignment programs.
At Ramstein AB in Germany, AAFES opens the world's largest military exchange, the BX/PX at the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center. About a week later, the BX at Kadena AB on Okinawa—the world's second largest exchange—opens its doors to excited shoppers. At KMCC, shoppers spent $1.2 million on opening day alone.
As part of AAFES' $1.2 billion capital improvement program, the organization also opened a shoppette at the Rhode Island National Guard Base that now brought the organization's footprint to all 50 states for the first time in its 114-year history. In addition, a new state-of-the-art BX opened at Minot AFB, N.D. Other main stores opened at Fort Riley, Kan. and Eielson AFB, Alaska, and dozens of others received major facelifts.
Manchu Wok, one of AAFES' many name-brand restaurant partners, presents awards of operational excellence to Fort Dix, N.J., and Fort Lewis, Wash.
AAFES begins getting involved in the "social networking" craze by setting up sites on Facebook, Twitter and other online sites, including a Salute to Your Service blog. The sites and blog gave AAFES more ways to stay in touch with customers and respond to their questions and concerns that came in from anywhere in the world. With the number of troops beginning to drop in Iraq and increase in Afghanistan, AAFES began planning how to shift its major services from one country to the other. As the Global War on Terror shifted from Iraq to Afghanistan, AAFES leaders in Europe planned to finance as many as 65 troop-run imprest fund sites in the most remote areas around the country far from Kandahar AB and Bagram AB.
For "the best customers in the world," AAFES provided merchandise by Liz Claiborne, Nautica, Tag Heuer, Macy's private labels, Lauder, Clinique, Lancôme, Elizabeth Arden, Shiseido, Revlon, Cover Girl, Prada fragrances and Victoria's Secret lingerie. The Coach handbag shops feature 35 styles and generate more than $37 million in sales, making Coach one of our top brands worldwide.
Sales of Martha Stewart products in more than 60 stores worldwide topped $5.1million, surpassing our goal of $3.4 million by 50 percent. Our greatest growth opportunity targeted fashion and home décor, with other popular items including home goods, including bed and bath textiles, housewares, casual dinnerware, glassware, cookware, home decor and gifts.
AAFES expands its portfolio of name-brand restaurants to a record 50 with the additions of Arby's, Del Taco and Wing Zone, while opening or converting 71 new restaurants. Customers now enjoy meals in more than 2,200 restaurants wherever Soldiers and Airmen are stationed. In addition, AAFES' Dominos, Papa John's and Pizza Hut delivery services generated $19 million sales at 19 locations around the world.
The ever-widening selection of Exchange Select private-label merchandise surpassed 600 products. The total doesn't include the dozens of private-label men, women and children's clothing, furniture and other products.
To create fun shopping environments for customers, AAFES linked up with GameStop, the world's largest video game retailer, to open 25 new stores. AAFES also partnered with Firestone to open 28 car-care services to military bases around the world.
AAFES associates at Fort Hood, Texas, jumped knot action after 13 Soldiers and civilians were killed and about 30 others wounded in a shooting rampage inside one of the installation's buildings. An Army psychiatrist at the fort, who investigators said had been in contact with Muslim extremists in the Middle East and was wounded by Killeen police, was charged with the murders.
2010s back to top
2010: Main stores at Misawa AB, Japan, Randolph AFB, Texas, and Keesler AFB, Miss., were expected to open. The new Keesler BX would replace the one destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
AAFES associates from HQ and Puerto Rico deploy to Haiti to staff tactical field exchanges and serve more than 20,000 American troops helping with recovery efforts from a devastating earthquake.