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DeCA to begin daily health screenings of everyone who works in commissaries on May 8

Anyone working in a commissary, like these employees at the Fort Greely, Alaska, store, will undergo daily health screenings before they start work. (Army photograph)

On May 8, the Defense Commissary Agency will begin daily health screenings of anyone who works in commissaries — including employees, baggers and affiliated contractors — before they start their shifts.

Commissaries will initially conduct the screenings with a questionnaire that focuses on any visible symptoms related to COVID-19, and traces their travel history as well as potential connections with anyone affected by the virus.

As stores receive their infrared thermometers, the screening will include temperature checks. If a temperature check determines anyone is a potential risk, they will be directed to go home and contact their health care provider. They can return to work once they have no signs of a fever or illness, and they will be screened again.

“Military resale is good at evolving and adapting, and screening the people who work in our stores is the first step in a new normal that helps reduce the risk of transmission for everyone,” said retired Rear Adm. Robert J. Bianchi, DOD Special Assistant for Commissary Operations. “We should expect to operate like this for the foreseeable future.”

Bianchi, who is also the CEO of the Navy Exchange Service Command, said his Navy Exchange stores are also preparing to implement these procedures for the personnel working in their facilities.

“There are probably going to be many commercial businesses that start implementing temperature checks for employees and wearing of face coverings, so this should be no surprise to anyone as they may experience this in many aspects of their personal lives,” he said.

The employee health screenings are the latest in a series of safety measures commissaries have implemented:

* Anyone (including customers) entering a store must wear a face covering
* Stores have plexiglass sneeze shields in all regular checkout lanes
* Commissary personnel wipe down checkout areas, product display cases, restrooms and shopping carts with disinfectant, and practice routine hand washing and other basic sanitation measures
* Touchless credit card processing eliminates the need for the customer to sign
* Customers scan their own ID cards so cashiers can provide them touchless transactions
* Reusable bag usage has been banned
* Only authorized customers – this includes disabled veterans with VHIC cards – will be able to enter a commissary. Visitors will no longer be allowed to accompany authorized customers and a 100% ID check is in place
* DeCA canceled special events such as the spring sidewalk sales, in-store product demonstrations (including DeCA’s free coffee program), group tours, vendor-sponsored events and other events to discourage group gatherings
* Commissaries are working with installation leadership and public health personnel to implement risk reduction practices such as designated store hours for various patron groups, and limiting the number of patrons in the store.

Commissary customers should continue to refer to the federal government’s response to coronavirus, COVID-19 website and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Coronavirus site for updates and guidance regarding this virus. Updates related to the commissaries can be found on DeCA’s Coronavirus page.

DeCA guidance requires employees, customers to have a face covering to enter commissaries

A store worker at the Daegu, South Korea, Commissary wears personal protective equipment as he wipes down a checkout area. (DeCA photograph)

Military commissaries worldwide are requiring some form of face covering for store employees and customers to enter a commissary.

The Defense Commissary Agency guidance is effective April 10 and applies to all agency stores and other facilities worldwide where no local directive has yet been issued, said Retired Rear Adm. Robert J. Bianchi, DOD special assistant for commissary operations.

“If an installation commander has already issued a directive to require face coverings in DeCA commissaries, this order shall not supersede their policy, and all patrons and employees shall adhere to current rules,” Bianchi said. “Many bases have already imposed this requirement, but at locations where there is no guidance, this is protection of our employees and our customers.”

DeCA’s guidance falls in line with April 5 Department of Defense guidance mandating that “all individuals on DoD property, installations, and facilities will wear cloth face coverings when they cannot maintain 6 feet of social distance in public areas or work centers.”

On April 3, DeCA announced to employees it was working through the procurement process to purchase and distribute personal protective equipment to stores as fast as possible.

The commissary agency is purchasing disposable masks and gloves through the commercial supply system that will be made available to employees.

As supplies of masks and gloves make their way to commissaries, store employees are wearing their own masks or some form of material such as scarfs, bandannas, clean t-shirts or cloths to cover the nose and mouth.

Army Lt. Col. Angela Parham, DeCA’s director of health and safety, emphasized that PPE is only one part of the preventive measures required to help combat COVID-19.

“DOD’s face covering mandate aligns with CDC guidance to help prevent asymptomatic people, who may not know they’re infected, from spreading the virus to healthy folks,” Parham said. “Even when you wear a mask or other face covering, it is still important to practice good hand hygiene, social distancing, and refrain from touching your face.”

In addition to requiring face coverings for employees and customers, commissaries have implemented the following operational policies to help make stores safer during this pandemic:

* Commissaries are installing clear, acrylic sneeze shields in all regular checkout lanes to add extra protection for customers and cashiers.
* Commissary personnel are wiping down checkout areas, product display cases, restrooms and shopping carts with disinfectant, and practicing routine hand washing and other basic sanitation measures to reduce transmission risk.
* Hand sanitizer is provided at each register and staff are encouraged to use it at the end of each patron transaction.
* DeCA encourages its employees to closely monitor their health, and asks them to stay home if they, or someone in their household, are sick.
* Stores are working with their installations to implement procedures regarding social distancing.
* A “no visitors” policy was instituted to reduce the number of people in the stores.
* Early bird hours were suspended to allow stores more time to clean and restock the store
* Patrons cannot bring reusable bags into the commissary to help reduce the risk of virus.
* Cashiers no longer handle patron ID cards. Instead, customers will be asked to scan their own ID or cashiers can use the handheld scanner if available.
* DeCA encourages the use of credit or debit transactions to limit the use of cash and coins
* Local commissaries work closely with the public health assets on the installation to monitor transmission risk related to staff and patrons.
* Commissaries have temporarily suspended the requirement to sign credit card receipts to prevent multi patron handling of the credit card reader pen.

“We will continue to follow the highest standards of DOD health protection in our stores,” Bianchi said. “DeCA’s objective is always to deliver the necessary goods our customers need in stores that are safe and clean for them and our employees.”

Commissary customers should continue to refer to the federal government’s response to coronavirus, COVID-19 website and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Coronavirus site for updates and guidance regarding this virus. Updates related to the commissaries can be found on DeCA’s Coronavirus page.

FYI: Blended Retirement System



The new Blended Retirement System is on its way, and with that comes some changes. In this episode of FYI, Tech. Sgt. Holly Roberts-Davis gives us some general comparisons to help us make an informed decision.

Around the Air Force: Nov. 8


On this look around the Air Force enlisted pilots take their first solo flight and a World War II bomber pilot is awarded the Silver Star.

Tech Report: Biofuels



In this episode of Tech Report, we learn the important role biofuels play in reducing dependence on crude oil.

Around the Air Force: Nov. 1


On this look around the Air Force a reduction in ancillary training is announced, cyberattacks are the leading strategic threat and a preview of the latest episode of BLUE features Air Force tankers.

AF takes initial steps to reduce training unrelated to primary missions


The Air Force plans to reduce training not related to Airmen’s primary jobs in order to address concerns that excessive and non-mission related demands are impacting Airmen’s ability to focus on and accomplish their core duties, officials announced Oct. 31.

As part of ongoing efforts to take care of Airmen and revitalize squadrons, Air Force leadership recently directed the “Airmen’s Time” task force to review 42 ancillary training courses (i.e., training outside of an Airman’s core job). Functional training requirements were not part of this review.

According to the official memorandum, of those 42 courses, the Air Force will eliminate 15 stand-alone training courses and streamline 16 courses reducing associated training time.

In a recent survey, Airmen identified 10 courses as the most burdensome. The service will eliminate or significantly reduce nine of them as part of this initiative.

Air Force leaders emphasized that while this is another positive step following the recent announcement eliminating some additional duties, more work remains.

“We’ve taken some modest steps to ensure we use our Airmen’s time in the smartest way, but this is a journey,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “We’ll continue to be deliberate about what we cut or streamline, but more is required as we continue to focus our efforts on the business of warfighting, respecting our Airmen’s time, and still meeting the necessary requirements to take care of our mission and our force.”

The courses reviewed include total force awareness training, which is required of all Airmen on an annual basis; selected force training, which is targeted to specific groups, including commanders, civilians and supervisors; event-driven training, which is triggered by some event, such as moving to a new assignment or duty station; and basic Airman readiness training, which is expeditionary-focused training required of all Airmen every three years.

While each of these training modules provide important information, the review found that many of the requirements duplicated information already provided in other trainings. These reductions will, in many cases, eliminate redundant requirements across the service.

“This initiative represents the next step in giving time back to our Airmen,” said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James. “All these training requirements were created to provide valuable information to our Airmen. The intent was right, but as the lists of requirements increased, our Airmen spent more time away from their core duties.”

Reducing ancillary training, according to Air Force leadership, is not intended to reduce emphasis on the need to have well-trained and educated Airmen. Instead, the effort is specifically designed to give the Air Force greater flexibility in how it meets and implements these requirements.

“Our Airmen are certainly busy, and that dynamic will likely not decrease in the foreseeable future. We understand that dynamic, and we’re willing to accept some risk where we can to better balance our Airmen’s time,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody. “Computer-based training impacts our Airmen’s time, so we’re looking at what we can eliminate, consolidate or substantially relax to cut the demand.”

The Air Force believes the initiative will benefit the total force by not only allowing active-duty Airmen more time to focus on their core mission but also giving Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Airmen more time to focus on honing their core skill sets during drill, unit training assembly and annual tour periods. The initiative builds upon a similar effort from the Guard in 2015.

“Our Airmen have repeatedly stepped up to increased deployment tempos and manpower shortages,” Goldfein said. “Reducing the number of hours our Airmen spend on non-critical training requirements goes directly to the heart of secretary James’s priority of taking care of Airmen and our efforts to revitalize the squadron and is another small step in the right direction. Squadrons are the engines of innovation and esprit de corps and the warfighting core of our Air Force, and today, we are giving back time so our Airmen can better focus on their core mission.”

Changes will be implemented between January and April 2017; however, Airmen are no longer required to complete the courses set for elimination. To ensure the revisions are implemented in a timely manner, all applicable Air Force instructions will be updated to reflect these changes no later than Jan. 1, 2017, and the Advanced Distributed Learning Service will be updated no later than April 1, 2017.

Headquarters Air Force will also establish a screening process to review new policies in order to identify areas that create additional duties or training requirements for Airmen in units. The goal is to prevent unchecked growth of these functions in the future

SECAF reiterates focus on modernization, efficiency

Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Melissa Estevez

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James discusses modernization and how mobility Airmen enable the fight during the 48th Annual Airlift Tanker Association Convention in Nashville, Tenn., Oct. 28, 2015. The symposium served as a key professional development forum for Mobility Air Forces Airmen by enabling direct access to senior mobility leaders and fostering an environment encouraging open dialogue and honest discussions.

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James took the stage Oct. 28, at the Airlift/Tanker Association Symposium to address the Air Force’s priority to maintain mission readiness and promote modernization in the coming years.

With increasing global threats, James reiterated her emphasis on the Air Force maintaining its global readiness. Air Mobility Command, assigned with enabling rapid aerial transportation missions, has been in the forefront of mobility efforts to support the current fight in Mosul, Iraq.

AMC professionals and capabilities enabled delivery of critical supplies, equipment, and ensured repairs of an airfield called Q-West, near Mosul. Additionally, they also supplied ground forces in northern Iraq via a robust airdrop capability. 

“Da’esh tried to make sure that we could never go back to Q-West, detonating explosives and digging trenches in the runway to make it unusable for our aircraft,” said James. “The logistics team had to move 1.9 million pounds of supplies and equipment to repair the field. What Da’esh spent two years destroying, our Airmen were able to rebuild in three weeks.”

Supporting combat and humanitarian missions abroad remains a primary focus, not only for AMC, but for the Air Force as a whole. These efforts can only be continued through modernizing our fleet to make sure we maintain air dominance.

“We need to invest in our modernization programs without sacrificing our readiness to operate effectively today.” said James. “We have to continue to repeat it to our Congress. This is not an either/or proposition. We need both readiness today, and we need to modernize for our future.”

With the introduction of the KC-46A Pegasus aerial tanker due to be delivered to McConnell and Altus Air Force Bases in 2017, modernization efforts have already begun for the Air Force.

“The KC-46 is one of what we call the ‘Big 3’ modernization programs,” said the secretary. “This is just a piece of the whole modernization picture. We are doing this across the entire enterprise. We have the future fighter, the F-35, and the future bomber, the B-21, which round out our ‘Big 3.’”

Ensuring modernization, while maintaining readiness, has been an essential priority for James as she continues to work toward a more effective Air Force.

“Across the Total Force, with our allies and partners around the world, and with our industry partners, when we all come together, this mobility community creates unique capabilities that transform the fight.” said James. “These bonds we have built have been the foundation of success the Air Force, and the Joint Force, have relied on for generations. It is essential today, and will be even more critical in the years to come.”

Yesterday’s Air Force: Tankers


The KC-46A Pegasus is the newest member of the aerial refueling team. This episode of Yesterday’s Air Force takes a look back at where it all started — from wing walkers to the most recent KC-135 Stratotanker.

Women can prolong their lives by taking these steps


Everyone — children and adults and men and women — should take charge of their own health to ensure they’re able to live a long and healthy life.

One of the most important things women can do to maintain good health is schedule an annual Well Woman visit with their healthcare provider. 

Well Woman exams help assess individual risks for women and can provide services for immunizations, contraceptives, screening for disease and counselling for sexually transmitted infections.

“This is probably the most important thing women can do for their health,” said Maj. Joshua Duncan, the chief resident for General Preventive Medicine Residency with the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences. “An annual Well Woman visit is an opportunity to detect and prevent disease.”

He said it’s also used as one of the ways to screen for domestic violence. “Unfortunately, abusive relationships often go unrecognized. This is also an opportunity for us to help people who may be in domestically violent relationships.”

When it comes to immunizations, Duncan said the vaccine for the Human Papillomavirus is a huge success for women. It’s a form of primary prevention, which means the vaccine prevents the disease from ever happening in the first place.

HPV is “the virus that causes genital warts and cervical cancer,” Duncan said. “We don’t get many cures for cancer, and this is a way to prevent one type of cancer, which I think is pretty awesome.”

To achieve the best results, the vaccine usually starts at a young age, and women entering their child-bearing years should start getting Papanicolaou tests, or Pap smears. This test checks for changes caused by HPV, and it’s something women in their 20s should get every three years.

“A lot of women are reluctant to come in because of Pap smears. It’s probably not the most comfortable experience for many patients” Duncan said, “but for women age 30 and over we’re now spacing it to every five years as long as they’re getting the blood test (that looks for HPV), too.”

Another thing women in this age group should consider is folic acid supplementation. Folic acid can help prevent birth defects in case of pregnancy, and Duncan said most women’s multivitamins include it.

Women going into their 50s or older should expect to start getting mammography, which is a screening tool that checks for breast cancer, and should be aware of their bone health.

“Women over 65 are at an increased risk for osteoporosis,” Duncan said. Osteoporosis is a disease where bones lose the strength they once had and can result in broken bones and increased injury after falls, but there are medications women can take to help strengthen their bones. He also said women younger than 65 may be at increased risk for osteoporosis, and their risk factors will be reviewed during an annual Well Woman visit.

The three most important things women can do to stay healthy is commit to an annual Well Woman checkup every year, take charge of their own healthcare, and speak up.

“What patients do at home is far more important than anything we can do in an office visit,” Duncan said. “We are there to provide education and provide some services, but healthcare is a partnership and our patients are the ones responsible for doing all the heavy lifting.”

He added some of the things women can do on their own is maintain a healthy diet and constant exercise, practice safe sex, and even learn more about themselves through their family’s history.

“Women who have a family history of cervical cancer or ovarian cancer may be at increased risk for developing breast cancer. There’s a genetic mutation that puts them at increased risk. So if this is something that runs in your family, it’s important to let your provider know during your annual visit.”

Duncan said women who are more prepared for their healthcare visits will see positive impacts in their health.

“By staying on top of these preventive services, you can prevent diseases,” he said. “You can catch them early enough that we can intervene and provide treatments that prolong your quality of life and let you do the things you want to do for a longer period of time.”

Two resources Duncan recommended include WomensHealth.gov and AHRQ.gov, which has a section to help patients come up with questions they should be asking with every visit to the doctor.