RAF Fairford Exchange supports quality of life for deployed Airmen

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jennifer Zima
  • 501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs

Airmen running the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) shoppette at RAF Fairford, England support deployed Airmen from around the world. 

During COVID-19, deployers and many visitors were not allowed to leave base. While food was provided in the base dining facility, the shoppette provided basic necessities, hygiene items, and some American treats from home. 

‘It really meant a lot for me to have that shop,” said Airman 1st Class Jesse Jenny, 5th Bomb Wing public affairs journeyman, who was deployed from Minot Air Force Base with the 420th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron this year. “I was so happy when someone bought me a bag of imported Hot Cheetos! I hadn’t had a spicy snack the entire time.”

The shoppette is run by Tech. Sgt. Tiara Wright, 420th EABS financial operations flight chief and officer in charge of base AAFES troop store, and two store managers, Tech. Sgt. Robert Gangwish, 420th EABS communications focal point noncommissioned officer in charge, and Tech. Sgt. Johnny Hernandez, 420th EABS emergency management section lead.

“The store has definitely helped a lot for people on Restriction of Movement,” said Wright. “Getting those essentials like personal hygiene items was very important because they couldn’t go off base to get anything.”

The store managers conduct day-to-day operations at the shoppette. They work Tuesdays and Thursdays 4:30 to 7 pm but are flexible about adjusting the schedule according to need. The shoppette stocks approximately 2,000 items with regular resupplies from RAF Croughton. Airmen are able to request specific items, which can be provided depending on availability.

“Everyone’s friendly and we have a good team,” said Gangwish. “The shoppette allows Airmen to get necessities as well as boost morale, since we can’t go out and do things on the weekends.”

As RAF Fairford has been expanding, the shoppette was originally started as a deal between AAFES and RAF Fairford. AAFES supplied the base with approximately $15,000 to make initial purchases for the shoppette.

“We buy stuff from Croughton’s AAFES, we bring it back here, then we stock the shelves, and resell it for the same prices,” said Gangwish. “We provide a service to all the Airmen, so they don’t have to pay the economy prices. We don’t get per diem, and all we get is $3.50 a day as deployers.”

Wright hopes to soon have a card reader for contactless transactions, so customers don’t have to carry cash on them, especially since they cannot use it in the economy off base. 

The shoppette has improved morale through providing a taste of home.

‘It was also nice for them to be able to have some of those things that you can only get from home, from the States,” said Wright.  “Just to give them a little bit more comfort while they’re here, I think that definitely helped a lot.”