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July 25, 2014

AAFES marks 119 years of serving Airmen

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Today, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) celebrates 119 years of proudly serving Airmen, Soldiers and their families.

AAFES is the 43rd largest retail organization in the U.S., with annual revenue of more than $10 billion and employing 40,622 civilian and military personnel.

The Exchange is a joint non-appropriated fund instrumentality of the Department of Defense (DOD). The Exchange is directed by a Board of Directors, responsible to the Secretaries of the Army and Air Force through the Chiefs of Staff.

Our mission is two-fold, to provide quality merchandise and services to its customers at competitively low prices and generate earnings which provide dividends to support morale, welfare and recreation programs.

The Exchange is self supporting, funding 98 percent of its operating budget from the sale of goods and services. The remaining two percent of Exchange funding comes from Appropriated Funds; the vast majority of this support is devoted to overseas operations.

The Exchange is also a major employer of military families. Approximately 24 percent of the Exchange’s 40,600 associates are military family members; 10 percent are Veterans; 2 percent are Active Duty, Guard, or Reserve personnel working part-time in Exchanges during their off-duty hours.

When Military members deploy to remote locations around the world, the Exchange is with them, offering products and services to bring troops a taste of home. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Exchange has deployed more than 4,300 associates.

The Exchange started from humble beginnings, during the American Revolution, the military did not issue personal items, such as soap, razors, and tobacco to soldiers. However, peddlers (called sutlers), followed the Army and sold merchandise, most of it inferior. Because of its corruption, traders authorized to sell merchandise at each post replaced the sutler system in 1867. By 1869, the War Department authorized small stores, known as canteens, putting the traders out of business.

On July 25, 1895, General Order No. 46 set the standard for the concept and mission of today’s exchange service. Eventually, independent operations evolved at Army divisional levels. Large posts, with little or no direction from higher quarters, established a post exchange to serve their unit. Post Commanders decided how to spend earnings. The system remained basically unchanged until 1941, when the War Department established the Army Exchange Service to provide broad guidance for worldwide operations. When the Air Force became a separate service, the exchange became a joint operation. In 1948, the organization became the Army and Air Force Exchange Service.

Your March ARB Exchange has been serving our March military members and their families for over 50 years!

Make sure you stop by today, starting at noon to help us celebrate with a cake cutting and specials in the store!

To find out more about the Exchange history and mission or to view recent press releases please visit our website at www.shopmyexchange.com.

(Information from the Army & Air Force Exchange Service website was used in this story)




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