LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas-- The Command Chief of 19th Air Force visited Laughlin Air Force Base Oct. 4-7 on a trip designed to highlight quality of life initiatives at one of the most geographically isolated bases in 19th Air Force.
In addition to recognizing top performers and touring work centers, Chief Master Sgt. Kristina Rogers visited base Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) facilities with store representatives to get a better understanding of progress needed to provide Laughlin residents a top-notch shopping experience that can be difficult to come by for some base residents.
“We talk a lot about quality of life and quality of service and AAFES is right on top of that list,” said Rogers. “That makes it a main focus.”
After the visit, Chief Rogers sat in on a town hall with AAFES officials as base residents discussed their concerns. Currently, Laughlin has one of the smallest base exchanges—both sales and square footage-wise—in the company’s central region to go along with an Express gas station where fuel purchases are limited to hours the store is actually open.
Town hall online viewer Sean Morris, 47th Force Support Squadron education tech, questioned if the base would ever get a larger Shoppette.
“4 Gas pumps, no diesel pumps, minimal hours, and barely anything in it (the Express),” lamented Morris in an online comment.
AAFES leadership conceded the hours were not optimal but contended that staffing shortfalls prevented them from being extended while, at the same time, offering up alternative solutions to the problem.
“We’re setting up micro-markets in strategic areas,” said Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Osby, the senior enlisted advisor for AAFES. “We know getting food beyond a certain time can be a challenge here (at Laughlin).”
One such location is a new enlisted lounge where an older building is being retrofitted to accommodate after-hours shopping amongst other activities. The $50K project dubbed, Hangar 47, was on display for Rogers as she continued her tour of the base.
The facility is expected to provide Airmen with what TSgt Patsy Robles-Pena, 47th Civil Engineer Squadron dorm manager, described enthusiastically as a “day-room on steroids.”
“It’s something I’ve been dreaming about since I started the job,” said Robles-Pena. “Airmen are already looking forward to it.”
Roger’s push to enhance the quality of life for 19th Air Force Airmen echoes the sentiments put forth by Air Force Chief of Staff C.Q. Brown, Jr. in his Action Orders which are designed develop the Airmen needed to maintain a competitive edge in a global environment that includes aggressive and capable competitors.
“Our leaders have a responsibility to Airmen and their families to provide the appropriate Quality of Service and Quality of Life where all can reach their full potential,” Brown penned in his 2020 order.
While Gen. Brown has seen embers of change sparking across the force, he placed the onus on leadership to continue pouring fuel on those embers to ignite a fire of “culture change” during a speech at the 2021 iteration of the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber conference.
Embers of change at Laughlin certainly won’t be dying out on Chief Rogers’ watch.
“We’re trying to make the improvements,” said Rogers. “Taking care of our Airmen and their families is our number one priority.”