NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Army & Air Force Exchange Service Director/CEO Tom Shull’s passion for taking care of America’s warfighters took him to Creech and Nellis Air Force Bases, giving him a first-hand look at how the benefit is thriving for troops and families.
During his trip Oct. 11 through 12, Shull met with Col. Case Cunningham, 432nd Wing commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Michael Ditore, 432nd Wing command chief, to discuss how the Exchange can best support the 3,000 Airmen and contractors who work at Creech.
At Nellis, Shull took the Exchange’s mission to the civilian media to help the greater Las Vegas community gain understanding of the virtuous cycle that exists among the Exchange and quality-of-life programs that are crucial to the military’s readiness and resiliency. He partnered with Col. Paul Murray, 99th Air Base Wing commander; and Lt. Col. Cristin Goerlitz, 99th Force Support Squadron commander to get the word out about the vital support the Exchange provides Airmen and families who call Nellis AFB home.
“My dad, who spent 30 years in the Army, used to say: ‘As long as my family is taken care of, I’m all in for the Army,’” Shull said. “The Exchange plays a big role in troop readiness and resiliency. We’re all in to support Airmen and families at Nellis. That support is so crucial.”
Shull, a former Soldier and infantry company commander with 30 years of retail/convenience business experience who applied private-sector business practices to the Exchange once he took the helm four years ago, has led a dramatic turnaround of the 121-year-old Department of Defense retailer. By intensifying national brands, growing concessions and Express stores, transforming the online shopping experience and reducing costs, the Exchange achieved record operating earnings of $402 million in 2015.
As a result, the Exchange distributed more than $500,000 to military quality-of-life programs at Nellis in 2015, ensuring the Exchange remains a vital, relevant benefit for military families. Support to these programs at installations around the world totaled $237.2 million last year.
“The Exchange brings a sense of community to military installations,” Shull said. “Our customers are heroes, and the Exchange exists to make life better for them while they’re putting their lives on the line for us.”
During his visit, Shull toured the Express, Cool Beans Coffee Shop and Kahao Asian Grill at Creech. At Nellis, Shull visited the Exchange shopping center, which debuted a $7.5 million upgrade in November 2015. The upgrade included renovations to the food court and Express, which were completed in 2013. The main store was remodeled with updated fixtures, signage and a layout that highlights the brands customers’ value.
“We’ve recently revamped our whole approach to shopping to create a better experience,” Shull said. “We’ve intensified our national brands, and we’re focused on the BE FIT lifestyle that’s so important for Airmen and their families.”
At Nellis, the BE FIT section has the look and feel of sporting goods store, with athletic wear and footwear for men and women all in one place. It’s one-stop shop for name brands shoppers know and trust, like Under Armour, Nike and Adidas. The BE FIT lifestyle extends into the Express, with good-for-you items like hummus, fresh fruit and protein snack packs for eating healthy on the go. Boston Market and Arby’s are among the food court’s healthy dining options.
The Exchange continues to invest in the Nellis community. Next year, a durable medical equipment store, with CPAP machines, walkers, braces, bandages and other hard-to-find medical supplies, is set to open in the mall. Starbucks is set to get a face-lift as well.
During his visit, Shull greeted Exchange associates, thanking them for serving with passion and reminding them of the critical support they provide America’s heroes.
“Since 1895, the Exchange has provided a lifeline to America’s service members and their families,” Shull said. “In fact, right here at Nellis, nearly 40 percent of Exchange associates are veterans, military spouses or dependents. The Exchange truly is family serving family.”