FORT LEE, Va. DeCA commissaries are doing more than just staying open as they support U.S. military installations under various force protection conditions.
Shortly after the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Agency Director Air Force Major General Robert J. Courter Jr., asked installation commanders to designate commissaries as key and essential, which means the stores will remain well-stocked and open for business within installation security guidelines.
Heightened security at all military installations has made it a challenge to coordinate product deliveries, but store directors are working with installation officials to keep the trucks rolling and the shelves stocked, DeCA officials said.
The agency is operating a 24-hour Emergency Operations Center at DeCA's Fort Lee headquarters that works in concert with the agency's four regions to keep the worldwide operation running smoothly. Nearly a third of the agency's 281 commissaries were closed the day after the attack in accordance with local force protection conditions. Within a short time all commissaries were open, with supply and distribution channels fully engaged and supporting the system, said DeCA officials.
It's important that our customers know they can count on us to deliver the quality commissary benefit during these difficult times, said DeCA's deputy director, Patrick Nixon. Commissaries have always been focal points for military quality of life on the installations, and that's even more the case now.
The quality commissary benefit includes continued inspections of commissary items by the network of military food inspectors, who provide an extra level of food safety to help ensure military readiness.
Besides ensuring a safe food supply, DeCA employees and their business partners are working to ensure their military communities receive the support they need to accomplish their missions.
The Fort Myer, Va., commissary, which is near the Pentagon, quickly responded to support emergency operations. After the post released all non-essential personnel following the terrorist attack on the Pentagon, the store supported purchases from six units stationed at Fort Myer, Henderson Hall Marine Corps Base and the Pentagon for items ranging from water and sandwiches to energy bars and fresh fruit. The next day, while closed to the public because of force protection measures, they delivered 20 cases of apples, oranges and pears, donated by a local produce company, to the Red Cross at the Pentagon. Nearby, commissary officials at Andrews and Bolling Air Force bases reported similar responses.
Because installation force protection measures affect commissary operating hours, commissary officials advise customers to be aware of local news announcements concerning the status of operations on their installations. When in doubt, customers can always call their commissary to make sure it is open when an installation changes its force protection status.