By Col. Deborah Grays, Garrison commander, Fort McPherson and Fort GillemJuly 24, 2009
Imagine a military Family with no lending closet to help it survive while it awaits its household goods at a new duty station. The Family is stationed several states away from loved ones and has no support from the military if a financial crisis occurs; no free, local prenatal classes and no program to provide support for its handicapped Family members. Imagine that the Soldier in that Family is deployed to the Middle East, where there are no American religious services to attend or religious figures to talk to about the stresses of the war. Additionally, there is no store where the Soldier can shop using U.S. currency to pay discounted prices for products tailored specifically to his or her needs.
It paints a very bleak picture, doesn\'t it'
Fortunately, thanks to three very important organizations that are celebrating a birthday or anniversary, that scenario is far from a reality. The Army Community Service (ACS), the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) and the Army chaplain corps ensure our servicemembers and their Families receive the highest quality care and services.
ACS will celebrate its 44th birthday July 25.
Before ACS, Army spouses operated lending closets, raised funds to help the needy, assisted in emergencies, taught and trained the inexperienced, and cared for those in need through a grassroots understanding of the Army community. Unfortunately, those services often disappeared or became dormant as personnel transferred or left the service. In 1965, ACS was officially born out of the need to maintain a continuity of services and to create the framework from which to provide new and expanded services to best meet the needs of military Families. Today, ACS provides deployment and mobilization support, assistance with family readiness groups, relocation readiness and financial readiness assistance, Family Advocacy Program services, exceptional Family member resources, volunteer programs, Army Family team building programs, employment services, and much more. ACS will celebrate today with an open house held from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. at ACS, Bldg. 62, on Fort McPherson. I invite you to stop by to enjoy cake and other foods, and to find out more about the organization's history and services.
July 25 is also the 114th anniversary of AAFES. In 1895, the War Department issued General Order 46, which directed post commanders to establish an exchange at every post, where practical. Today, AAFES has more than 3,100 retail outlets at Army and Air Force installations in 30 countries. More than 43,000 AAFES employees serve more than 11.6 million servicemembers, retirees and their families. Approximately one-quarter of those employees are Soldier or Airman spouses and children. As of 2007, customers saved an average of 19.84 percent by shopping at the PX or BX rather than its civilian competition. Also as of 2007, AAFES was listed 38th on the Stores.com top 200 retailers (a spot ahead of upscale department store Nordstrom) and was the 67th largest exporter in the U.S. (and one of only three retailers in the top 100), according to the Journal of Commerce. The AAFES anniversary will be celebrated at the Fort McPherson Mini-Mall today from 11 a.m. until 1p.m., and at the Fort Gillem Main Exchange tomorrow from 10 until 11 a.m. Both events will include a cake-cutting ceremony and assorted sales and drawings.
Last, but definitely not least, the Army chaplaincy corps will celebrate its 234th anniversary July 29. Gen. George Washington signed a general order July 29, 1775, authorizing the position of one chaplain for each regiment, and the Chaplain Corps was born. While Washington wanted the chaplains to be religious leaders, they also visited the wounded, took care of the dead, wrote letters home for Soldiers who couldn't write and gave discourses of a patriotic nature to keep Soldiers from deserting. Today, chaplains maintain many of those same duties, plus so much more. Under the motto Pro Deo et Patria (For God and Country), they are "boots on the ground," a calming influence for Soldiers, wherever they're deployed, and for the Families left behind. Chaplains also provide marital counseling, officiate weddings, act as historians and offer much more.
The anniversary will be celebrated July 24 beginning at 11:30 a.m. at the gazebo behind U.S. Army Forces Command, Bldg. 200 on Fort McPherson. The event will include a free lunch for the first 500 people, a cake-cutting ceremony and a performance by the Army Ground Forces Band ensemble.
I invite you to join me in celebrating the milestones for these organizations - organizations that do so much for Soldiers and their Families. After all, what would your Army be like without them'