The Fort Irwin Exchange plans to complete improvements to some of their facilities and enhance their provided services to the community by this spring.
“Currently, the Service Station on Langford Lake Road is undergoing an image upgrade to make it look more appealing for our customers and to increase efficiency related to customer service,” stated Lynn Thompson, the general manager of the local Exchange.
This facility is a popular destination during the lunch rush and for visiting Soldiers from rotational training units, Thompson said. The facility has experienced a huge growth and popularity in the snack and the heat-and-eat areas.
Also taking place during this spring, Taco Bell and Einstein Bagels will be moving from the Town Center area to the food court at the Exchange Main Store, Thompson explained. The food court currently has the Charley’s Steakery and Baskin Robbins. Einstein Bagels will provide for a breakfast option to enhance the food court’s service offerings. The plan is to have more eateries opened for business during the same hours as the Exchange Main Store.
“It is logical for Taco Bell and Einstein Bagels to be consolidated into the main store food court to help centralize our service offerings,” Thompson said. “With ample parking at the Main Store, it is easier for people to access the facilities during the lunch rushes.”
Supporting quality of life
Thompson stated that the Exchange helps fund the Army’s Family Morale Welfare and Recreation program. In 2013, the Exchange (world-wide) contributed $334 million as dividends to FMWR. Fort Irwin received $544,802 that year to support the FMWR’s mission.
She emphasized that almost every dollar spent at Exchange facilities is an investment in quality of life and is used to help improve our local community.
“For example, your Taco Bell is genuinely your Taco Bell,” Thompson said. “Every dollar you spend at Taco Bell, above and beyond the cost of doing business, goes to the bottom line, which in turn goes directly back to that particular military installation, in this case Fort Irwin. We all have ownership in all of these places that we have. It is the one thing the customer can say, ‘This is something I truly own.’”
Working for the Exchange
Thompson, who has served with the Exchange for almost 27 years, started as an intermittent, on-call employee. She stated that the Exchange is a great place to gain work experience and begin a career.
“I encourage the community, from the very bottom of my heart, to understand that working for any one of the directorates supporting the Exchange – even in entry level positions – is so important and critical to our mission,” Thompson said. “It’s not just about the job – it’s about having the opportunity to develop your own work ethic, beginning your career.”
She encourages teenagers to apply and be part of the team. Sacrificing family time might be difficult, but the community as a whole, benefits from dependable employees.
“It takes a genuine desire to want to take care of people and to provide a service,” Thompson said. “You have to be service-minded in order to do what we do and to consistently do it every day.”
Military Star card
The Exchange currently pays $1 for every debit or credit card transaction such as Visa, MasterCard or American Express. By using the Military Star card at various Exchange facilities, Thompson explained that customers can save their Exchange approximately $500,000 in fees every year and increase contributions. For example, in 2013, the local Exchange was able to contribute $544,804 back to the Irwin community, yet paid $594,000 in credit/debit card fees. That would have amounted to $1,138,804 being contributed back to Fort Irwin if Military Star Cards were used.
The Military Star card is available to anyone who has a military identification card, including family members.
“Benefits to the individual include an interest rate of 10 percent, a 10 percent discount the first day of use, and a five cent per gallon discount at the gas pump,” Thompson said.
Eligible customers can apply at any Exchange facility and can even get approved on the spot. Customers can also pay the balance on their Military Star card at any Exchange retail facility.
Commitment to community
“Our mission is to serve the military families and Soldiers,” Thompson said.
She not only described her role as a leader, but also as a mentor to her staff, many of whom are young. She understands the challenges and benefits of military life – having been raised in a military family (her father retired from an Army career) and then being a military spouse for 38 years.
“I still strongly believe in what I’m doing and know that all I do for the Exchange is in support of our Troops and their families,” Thompson said.