Since 1895, warfighters and their families have counted on the Army & Air Force Exchange Service to improve their quality of life no matter where they have served. Today, the Exchange, which offers tax-free goods and services at more than 4,000 facilities on Army and Air Force installations worldwide, is the Department of Defense’s largest retailer.
“Starting from humble beginnings, the Exchange traces its roots to merchants who followed the Army and provided goods from tents on the American frontier,” said AAFES Director/CEO Tom Shull. “Today, the hard-earned benefit is a force-multiplier to recruiting, resilience and retention, serving military communities in all 50 states and 32 countries.”
The Exchange dates back to July 25, 1895, when the War Department issued General Orders No. 46, directing commanders to open post exchanges at their installations. Throughout its history, the Exchange has supported deployed service members with a taste of home, from snacks and personal necessities to name-brand American restaurants. Exchange associates have served troops on the front lines of war zones, devastating natural disasters, and now global pandemics. Since 9/11, more than 4,800 Exchange associates have deployed alongside America’s warfighters.
“The Exchange truly is family serving family,” said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Luis Reyes, Exchange senior enlisted adviser. “Our associates are dedicated to serving their communities because they’re a part of those communities themselves. That personal investment is what sets the Exchange apart from other retailers -- many of our associates have walked in our customers’ boots.”
AAFES officials report 100% of Exchange earnings support the military community. In the past 10 years, the Exchange has distributed more than $2.2 billion to critical military quality-of-life programs that promote military readiness and resiliency. These programs include child, youth and school services, Armed Forces Recreation Centers and more. All remaining earnings are reinvested into new and renovated stores.
To learn more about the Exchange’s history, visit the interactive history timeline. To help celebrate the 125th anniversary virtually, visit https://publicaffairs-sme.com/Community/125th/.