SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – To keep our weapons and defenses locked and loaded, we have to keep our supplies, stocked and loaded, and that includes groceries and other products.
More precautions and protocols have been added to combat the spread of COVID-19 as it grips the nation. With some functions deemed mission essential and required to keep up with high demands, it doesn’t hurt to send out a helping hand to those who provide the basic necessities to survive this virus.
On April 2, 2020, 362nd Training Squadron Airmen-in-Training were sent to Sheppard AFB’s Commissary, which was deemed mission essential, to help restock shelves.
“We’re very thankful,” said Toddrick Thompson, assistant commissary officer at Sheppard. “If we didn’t have the AiTs to help us today, the products wouldn’t get on until tomorrow.”
Thompson said because of manufacturers having to keep up with the supply and demand during the COVID-19 crisis, the distributor trucks work off a different timetable. He said they usually schedule most of their Commissary workers to align delivery times, but now it doesn’t work the same way.
But when a shipment does come in and they need extra hands to get those products on shelves and to the community faster, a mechanism is in place to get all the support he needs on base.
To help the commissaries provide basic necessities of life, the Department of Defense issued a memorandum on March 25, 2020, to all mission-essential facilities, such as Defense Commissary Agency stores, that additional resources are available if needed.
In the March 25 memo, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Virginia Penrod said, “While DeCA is hiring additional store employees under critical hire authority to maintain necessary staffing levels, the Secretaries of the Military Departments and geographic combatant commanders should be prepared to support sustainment of commissary operations with uniformed members and assets, if necessary to maintain critical operations.”
With resources at the ready, Sheppard leadership reached out to the Sheppard Commissary to see if they needed support.
“They asked if there was anything they could do to make sure the community was taken care of,” Thompson said. “The only thing we could think of and the first time we called was ‘we could get the products to the shelf faster.’”
In what seemed like less than 10 minutes from the time he called, Thompson said, Sheppard leadership had AiT at the Commissary ready to work.
Thompson said the only good thing that COVID-19 has brought is a greater sense of community as customers and workers have banded together. Not only is there more communication, he said, but there’s understanding for both sides about the wants and needs they can and will supply to the populace.
He also said it also gives AiTs the chance to talk to the grocery manager about items of interest for their population.
“The commissary is always a part of the military community,” Thompson said. “Lately there’s been more communication. Even AiTs just stocking the shelves, there’s more interaction with the AiTs, and I’ve been here for two years.”
Thompson said no matter what happens he’s glad to see that there’s a community around him that is able to help and look out for each other during this crisis.
“That’s what we’re here for – to help the military community,” he said. “We are all on the same page and the biggest thing is we’re all here for each other.”