BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (December 10, 2008) – The Army and Air Force Exchange Service provided a unique opportunity for deployed service members to get supplies they need with a mobile post exchange air lifted into remote Combat Outpost Malekshay in eastern Afghanistan November 28th.
Soldiers of 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, used Eagle Cash cards to make purchases. The service members purchased items like energy drinks, snack food, tobacco products and soft drinks.
“When I first heard they were going to fly a PX out here, I thought they were lying. Who’s going fly all the way out here with a PX?” said Spc. Benjamin Nelson, a Soldier with Charlie Co.
AAFES new Air Assault PX program focuses on bringing services to the troops on the front line. Malekshay was chosen to be the first test run for the initiative.
“This is the first Air Assault PX in Afghanistan,” said Robert J. Van Oss, a retired service member who now works with AAFES. “Just like the sign says, we go where you go. We hope to make this a regular event.”
“We brought items we thought the troops would want to purchase the most,” Van Oss said. “We looked at what are the main sellers on the larger forward operating bases and air fields. Based on the feedback we receive from this initial trip, that list of items may change. Two of the major items we brought were energy drinks and snack food,” Van Oss said.
Charlie Company Soldiers spend around three weeks at a time at Malekshay, without the amenities the larger bases have, like showers and AAFES facilities. The base is located near the Pakistan border.
“It’s real cool, and nice to get something like this,” said Spc. Bradley Young, a Soldier with Charlie Co., and a native of Columbia, Mo. “Energy drinks are a real big hit up here.”
The Air Assault PX program consists of one AAFES employee and supported by two finance Soldiers. The finance team provided troops the opportunity to purchase or add money to their Eagle Cash cards. This payment is the only type of fund this AAFES program is able to accept at this time.
“A lot of the items I bought were for other Soldiers. I purchased an Eagle Cash card and told some of the guys they could just pay me back,” Nelson said. “With AAFES out here it’s been real nice. It’s been like a little slice of home. Out here there isn’t much that reminds us of home.”
The troops are encouraged by this program.
“I think the mobile PX is a good idea and great for morale,” said Sgt. Ronald Rucker Jr, a team leader with Charlie Co. “The guys really seem to like it. Everything they brought is useful. Getting a chance to look at these magazines help me keep up to date on what’s going on back home, kind of makes me feel closer to the states.”
Outreach like this alleviates some of the isolation of the outlaying bases.
“It’s hard to get out to these guys,” Van Oss said. “We know there is a need out here, and we’re trying to find the best way to fill it. We want to provide the Soldiers with as much as possible as often as possible. I’m here because I wanted to continue to serve.”