In the middle of uncertainty and chaos, there is opportunity. Soldiers from the 94th Air and Missile Defense Command (AAMDC) are volunteering to help stock shelves at the Hickam Commissary. While there is plenty of inventory, Hickam Commissary, like other commissaries across the Hawaii installations, is in need of hands to fill the shelves. New policies have been instituted at commissaries across U.S. Army Garrison- Hawaii installations as a result of the Coronavirus. All policies are an attempt to slow the spread of the virus and despite attempts to continue to meet demand at the commissaries, demand for products is significantly higher than usual, and the normal schedules for re-stocking are simply not enough.
Jeanne Vasquez, Hickam Commissary Assistant Manager, is working hard and around the clock to organize and coordinate her team of workers to receive shipments at a much higher rate while also keeping up with the day-to-day operations of restocking shelves and making sure all patrons leave the store with what they need. “It’s been hard,” Vasquez says. “The Soldiers volunteering to help is truly making a difference, we just can’t keep up with re-stocking across the store and so their efforts are greatly appreciated.”
“We have two teams, each one is made up of four to five Soldiers who have volunteered to do this in their free time,” says Lt. Marc Thibodeaux, 94th AAMDC. “The teams are working stocking and as they stock, they are breaking down the boxes because that’s one less thing for the workers here to have to do. We are also prioritizing the frozen food because if that’s not stocked on time, the products will go bad. In the back, the boxes are getting backed up simply because the workers can’t keep up. In the meantime, the shelves were going empty, giving the appearance that there isn’t any food in stock where in actuality there is plenty. They just need the help.”
The group of volunteers came together after Thibodeaux heard that the Commissary needed help. While maintain social distance, the leadership of the 94th AAMDC, coordinated via phone and text messages the hours and the names of the volunteers.
Some of the Soldiers admitted that with limited access to the gyms, based on the current Health Protection Conditions level, they were more than happy to support the commissary while also getting a workout in. There is heavy lifting of boxes, and plenty of moving around while they restock high and low shelves.
During this time of uncertainty, it has become obvious that one of the most significant elements contributing to the anxiety of military families everywhere is the fear of not having enough supplies to eat. “The help that these Soldiers are providing, is making a big difference,” said Maj. Pedro Fernandez, Secretary to the General Staff at the 94th AAMDC. “The patrons who are in line outside the Commissary may not see the work that is happening behind the scenes, but to these Soldiers, it is important that our military families walk out of the Commissary feeling at ease that they have what they need for their families. After all, taking care of each other is a significant characteristic of the military community,” said Fernandez.
This seemed like an obvious opportunity to help for one of the Soldiers helping restock. Staff Sgt. Ryan Kelly, also with the 94th AAMDC, used to work in a grocery store before joining the Army. “I figured, this is somewhat in my area of expertise, I’ve done this before and they need our help,” said Kelly. “Seeing the difference we are making, in just an hour or two, makes me happy. When we first walked in this morning the shelves were empty, but people are now actually finding what they are looking for as we keep re-stocking them and making it easier for everyone.”
For more information on how to assist, please contact Ms. Jeanne Vasquez at firstname.lastname@example.org.