While many of us in the Monterey Bay area endure the shelter-in-place from the safety and comfort of our homes -- the professionals who work at the Ord Military Community Commissary report for duty daily to keep essential food and supplies stocked for service members, families, retirees and disabled veterans.
Alex King, Ord Military Community Commissary director, said it was hectic at the beginning of the pandemic, but they are now maintaining positive stock levels of essential items such as produce, water, meat, eggs, milk and bread.
“We may not always have toilet paper or hand sanitizer in stock, but the necessities and things you need to survive are still here,” said King. “Meat will be fully stocked most every time you come in.”
He added “toilet paper is hit-or-miss, but I think that will slowly get better over time as manufacturers meet demand.”
Alexandria Kaiser, computer assisted ordering technician, said “we do the best we can, but we really can’t control what we get in our store right now. It’s just a matter of as soon as we get it in -- then we get it on the floor as fast as possible.”
The commissary receives shipments every day except Sundays, but the demand for many items in stores has exceeded supply, which means distributors are unable to completely fill orders.
“What we are ordering and what we are receiving are two separate things,” said King. “The global demand for certain items is higher than it’s ever been.”
Commissaries in the western and pacific regions order from the same distributor, which means the OMC commissary shares available quantities with stores on larger installations.
King said “The distributors are doing an amazing job -- they are working extremely hard to make it fair and balanced, so everybody gets a little bit and all military communities are taken care of.”
This pandemic has significantly increased the workload for commissary employees. Despite the extra work and fear of being exposed to coronavirus, they are staying positive by supporting each other and keeping their focus on the customers.
“We just take it a day at a time and do whatever we can for our patrons,” said Kaiser. “We know that we’re helping service members who are on the front lines all across the world, so it makes us proud to support them.”
Col. Greg Ford, Presidio of Monterey commander, said the commissary professionals have responded extremely well to constantly changing guidance as the Department of Defense battles the spread of this pandemic.
“The DECA professionals here have been amazing and have responded to the needs of our community absolutely flawlessly,” said Ford. “I have to applaud all of them for that. They are taking care of families and truly doing the nation’s work right now.”
“My employees are awesome -- everybody has stepped up big time. Despite all the stuff you see on the news, they are still giving 110 percent,” said King. “They are all very positive and want to do what they can to support the military community. I couldn’t ask for a better team.”
Commissary customers also expressed appreciation for the workers who come to work every day to keep the doors open and shelves stocked. A retired Army officer who asked to remain anonymous said “they are the heroes of the hour.”
“I really appreciate them being willing to come out and expose themselves daily. They’re here every day -- being vigilant for our safety, and I am truly grateful,” said commissary patron Korinne Norlund.
The commissary staff implemented new cleaning procedures in accordance with CDC and DoD guidelines to ensure a clean and safe environment for patrons and workers.
· All carts are cleaned and sanitized after each use.
· Check stands are wiped down between customers.
· Display case door handles are regularly wiped down throughout the day.
· There is a hand washing station at the store entrance.
Norlund said she is avoiding other grocery stores as much as possible. “I feel safer shopping here than at a big store that has more patrons.”
King encourages authorized patrons to shop at the commissary to take advantage of the low pricing and clean environment. “It’s like a private-exclusive club for military folks, and we pride ourselves on that.”
He added “we are proud of what we do, and we will be here working hard until it’s over to support our community.”