By Capt. David TomiyamaSeptember 18, 2008
DALLAS (Army News Service, Sept. 18, 2008) - As troops bring help to the Houston area in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service is doing its part to support them with a Mobile Field Exchange.
The MFE is a retail store in a 53-foot trailer that carries merchandise such as snacks, drinks and toiletries. MFEs are designed to move at a moment's notice to support troops across the world. With the closure of the Ellington Field exchange due to the power outage affecting most of south Texas, a MFE was transported to the joint civil-military airport located 15 miles southeast of downtown Houston on Sunday afternoon.
"We're here to support the troops in the Houston and Galveston areas," said John Burk, MFE team leader. "All we want to do is make life a little more comfortable for those working to bring life back to normal for the residents here."
Burk, along with six AAFES associates from Lackland Air Force Base, Fort Sam Houston and the Waco Distribution Center, arrived at Ellington Field Sunday morning to set up the MFE. The team immediately stocked the trailer with merchandise from the Ellington exchange, opening just hours later to support local troops as well as deployed Air National Guard, Army National Guard, Marine and Navy Reserves, Coast Guard and Texas State Guard members.
"By volunteering to support the troops, it's our way of giving back to them for all the hard work they're doing," said Burk.
The efforts of the associates are greatly appreciated by troops who can now pick up a drink and grab a snack after a long day of recovery operations. Authorized shoppers have traveled up to 30 miles to visit the AAFES MFE and pick up basic necessities such as ice.
"They thank us all the time for what we're doing," said Burk. "They appreciate that we're here when they didn't expect us. Even though we're only doing our job, it's very rewarding and worthwhile to be here supporting the troops."
AAFES' motto of "We Go Where You Go!" is carried out by having an exchange at Army and Air Force installations across the globe, including more than 85 exchanges in the Middle East that support troops fighting the Global War on Terror.
MFEs are used in operations where no permanent exchange facilities are available for troops to shop. Beside supporting Hurricane Ike relief operations, MFEs this year have been put in place for troops participating in humanitarian missions in Peru for New Horizons 2008,Trinidad and Tobago for Beyond the Horizons 2008 as well as Hayfork and Booneville, Calif. during the summer wildfires. AAFES currently has a total of nine MFEs ready to deploy for exercises and contingency operations.
"Our most important mission is to support troops in contingency locations, to bring that 'taste of home' when they absolutely need it the most," said Capt. Kristin Burt, AAFES contingency planning officer. "Because retail operations are integrated into life support plans, troops can rely on AAFES to be on the ground with what they need and want during a deployment or a domestic emergency."
AAFES is a joint military command with a dual mission of providing quality merchandise and services to troops and their families and generate earnings to supplement Army Morale, Welfare and Recreation and Air Force Services programs. In 2007, AAFES provided $272.7 million to MWR and Services programs.
For more information about AAFES, see www.aafes.com.
(Air Force Capt. David Tomiyama serves with AAFES Public Affairs.)