FORT POLK, La. — An Exchange store is there if you need coffee, a quick snack, gas or a number of other little things that make life easier for the members of the Fort Polk community.That’s why the Army and Air Force Exchange Service is making life even more convenient for Soldiers, retirees and military Families with an improved shopping experience at the Express 3, located at 2891 Chaffee Road, bldg 7000, serving the Maple Terrace housing community and the North Fort training area.As part of Fort Polk’s quality of life initiative, the Exchange funded a $600,000 renovation of the 3,200-square-foot Express 3 location, which began in August and was completed in December, despite challenges posed by COVID-19, said Ronald McDuffie, Fort Polk Exchange general manager.“Upgrading this store is part of what we are providing in support of the quality of life initiative to further enhance the customer experience,” he said.To celebrate the reopening of the store, Brig. Gen. David S. Doyle, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk commanding general, Command Sgt. Maj. Michael C. Henry, post command sergeant major, Col. Ryan Roseberry, garrison commander and Exchange leaders cut the ribbon on the newly renovated store Jan. 6.The Exchange is a vital part of the Fort Polk community, said Roseberry. “Efforts like this demonstrate the pride AAFES has in its facilities and services to our Soldiers and Families. The quality of life initiative is a joint effort across the installation, and we are working together to make Fort Polk an even better place to live and work,” he said.Some of the many updates to Express 3 include new flooring, shelving, a walk-in cooler and freezer, updated fixtures, paint, décor and new merchandise, including BE-FIT approved healthy snacks.“The first thing you see when you walk into the store is an island cooler filled with healthy food and drinks that are easy for busy Soldiers and Family members to grab and go,” said McDuffie.Ruth Shepherd, Express 3 store manager, said she has already received positive feedback from many of her customers when it comes to the improvements that have been made to the store.Some of those improvements include an upgraded and expanded snack avenue, a new soup program, the relocation of Hunt Brothers Pizza from one area of the store to another — along with the addition of a hood to cut down on heat produced from the ovens, new freezers and coolers that expanded the space within the store and, for coffee lovers, a Bunn Sure Immersion coffee machine that allows customers to make their own individual cup of coffee.McDuffie said the new Sure Immersion machine is the only one of its kind on post at the moment, and Shepherd said customers are loving the new healthy soup options.“Customers can come in on a cold day and get something warm and healthy to eat,” she said.These improvements are the latest and greatest in brand design for Express stores, said McDuffie.“It’s an honor to be able to return this store to the Maple Terrace neighborhood and North Fort with all the improved elements we could provide,” he said.Antonio M. Porter Sr., AAFES mid-central region vice president, attended the ribbon cutting and said he felt the Express 3 made a difference in the aftermath of the recent hurricanes that hit Fort Polk in 2020.“Those storms made a huge impact on the Fort Polk community and this store was part of the effort to get the Soldiers and Families the merchandise they needed in their time of need. We are proud of that,” he said. “We are also committed to supporting them long term with updates to the store that will surely improve their quality of life in many ways.”An unique addition to the upgrade of Express 3 is the photo placed on one of the store’s walls. The black and white picture features a Soldier in uniform in the midst of training. The snapshot encompasses the specific mission of Fort Polk, said McDuffie.“It provides our customers with a sense of ownership,” he said.Roseberry said the picture personifies the importance of putting the JRTC label on the newly reopened store.“That image depicts the culture of JRTC, and the people who see it will feel invested because it is a reflection of what they do at Fort Polk,” he said.Chief Warrant Officer 2 Frank Rico, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, walked into the express to grab a drink, and while there, he picked a free slice of Hunt Brothers pizza as part of the grand reopening celebration. He said the changes to the store are really nice.“I think the overall design is warm and inviting. All the upgrades will improve the quality of life for Soldiers and Families,” he said.Express 3 is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, call 537-5234.