Army & Air Force Exchange Service Director/CEO Tom Shull's passion for taking care of America's warfighters took him halfway around the world in September, giving him a first-hand look at how the benefit is thriving for troops and families in Japan, Okinawa and Korea.
During his trip, Shull visited 50 Exchange sites across the Pacific, from the Kadena Air Base Exchange—one of the largest in the world—to the tiny Express at Camp Bonifas at Korea's Demilitarized Zone. He also stopped by Exchange restaurants, bakeries and distribution centers to experience the scope of how the organization takes care of those serving far from home.
Tom Shull (left), Army & Air Force Exchange Service Director/CEO, discusses the new shopping center at U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys with Stan Young, Humphreys Exchange General Manager, during a visit on Sept. 18, 2016. During his 10-day trip across the Pacific, Shull visited 50 Exchange sites to get a first-hand look at how the Exchange is benefiting troops and families. (Photo by Julie Mitchell, Army & Air Force Exchange Service HQ)
“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 not only Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Sailors but their family members as well. That support is so crucial.”
Shull, a former Soldier and infantry company commander 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 $237.2 million to military Quality-of-Life programs in 2015, ensuring the Exchange remains a vital, relevant benefit for military families.
Shull's visit to the Pacific allowed him to experience the unique lifeline to America that the Exchange provides troops and families overseas. The support the Exchange provides to troops and families overseas goes beyond the main Exchange. Conveniences of home—American restaurants, barber shops and dry cleaners; bakeries that churn out Wonder bread, hamburger buns and tortilla chips; and nutritious USDA-approved school meals for service members' children prove the Exchange is much more than a retailer.
“The Exchange brings a sense of community to military installations,” Shull said. “We satisfy the needs of those who serve their country, and many time the Exchange is their only access to true tastes and conveniences of home. 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.”
In Korea, Shull met with military leaders, including Lt. Gen. Tom Vandal, U.S. Forces Korea chief of staff; Maj. Gen. Ted Martin, commanding general, 2nd Infantry Division; and Col. Phillip Raymond, 2ID chief of staff, to discuss how the Exchange can continue serving troops in Korea especially as Soldiers begin moving from U.S. Army Garrisons Yongsan and Casey as part of the transformation and relocation to U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys.
At Humphreys, Shull visited the new troop store and mini mall, which is set to open in November, and the new Exchange shopping center, which should debut in 2018.
“We've recently revamped our whole approach to shopping to create a better experience,” Shull said of the new Humphreys store. “We've intensified our national brands and we're focused on the BE FIT lifestyle that's so important for Soldiers, Airmen and their families.”
The new Humphreys Exchange will include a BE FIT center with men's and women's footwear and athleticwear in one place—resembling major sporting goods stores. Express convenience stores will promote BE FIT too, he said.
“Better-for-you products are at the forefront of what we provide,” Shull said.
During each leg of his Pacific journey, Shull greeted Exchange associates, thanking them for serving with passion and reminding them of the critical support they provide America's heroes.
“The Exchange values its place as part of the community on each installation in the Pacific,” Shull said. “The Exchange team appreciates all that service members and their families sacrifice, and their sacrifices inspire us to work even harder to serve them.”
By Julie Mitchell, Army & Air Force Exchange Service HQ
Provided through DVIDS
Comment on this article