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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive

Are PXmarts closing in other locations?

Future of PXmart uncertain is an interesting article in the paper this Monday morning
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Two days after his 103rd birthday Jerry Bardwell drove to the McClellan PXMart just as he does every week.

He doesnít shop there because he needs to save money.

He says heís got plenty.

He shops there because itís his right ó a privilege he earned while serving his country from 1941 to 1961.

"Iím trying to get all I can out of them," he said. "They got all they could out of me."

For the military retirees who shop at the combined PX and commissary, losing the store would mean more than a higher grocery bill or the inconvenience of driving to Huntsville or Montgomery to avoid paying tax.

Itís a broken promise.

The Defense Department says it will close the Fort McClellan combined store by the end of the year, because it has lost money since inception and serves a "very limited active duty population."

After Fort McClellan closed in 1999, the Army merged its commissary with the post exchange, which was operated by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) for a profit.

The resulting PXmart was the third hybrid store that AAFES operated at a former military base.

While there is still uncertainty among customers and employees over whether the PXmart is in its final days ó AAFES is waiting for notification of the Defense Departmentís final decision ó the military retirees who use the store are angered and insulted by the possibility of closure.

They say the PX-commissary is one of the benefits the government promises they will have their whole lives ó regardless of whether a store loses money.

A promise is a promise.

Glen Prestride of Anniston said the PX closing would be one more thing the government offered and then took away.

"What can I say? Why vote?" he asked.

Jim Sullivan of Jacksonville said backing out of this commitment would add to recruitment costs and problems the military already faces.

"We promised the Reserve and National Guard a PX and commissary benefit and then we send them to Iraq, and when they come back itís gone," he said.

If military retirees feel disillusioned and cheated, why would their children want to enlist? he said.

The fronts of several parking rows were lined with cars at the PXmart Thursday, but the parking lot was nowhere close to full.

Arthur Johnson of Weaver was looking critically at the large store before him.

"If they want to keep this going, they can," he said.

Johnson said that if the store really is losing money, the problem is correctable.

Much of the inventory does not target the storeís customer base, which is retirees, he said.

There are TVs and radios that most retirees donít buy because they already have those things and clothes that donít appeal to their age group, he said.

Make the store smaller, lose the merchandise that doesnít sell, but donít eliminate the benefit altogether, he advised.

AAFES spokesman Fred Bluhm said there are 12,200 military retirees eligible to use the PXmart in a 40-mile radius of Fort McClellan and 18,000 in a 50-mile radius.

Vickey Ellison of Ohatchee said she would hate to see the loss for all the people whoíd based their retirement on the medical facility Ė which is already gone Ė and the PX and commissary being here.

Several customers said they would start driving as far as Montgomery and Huntsville if they lost their store.

Even though AAFES awaits final notification, the DOD says the decision to close the store has already been made.

After a required annual analysis of store operations, the AAFES Board of Directors recommended closing the store, and the Secretary of the Army endorsed the recommendation.

Charles Abell, principal deputy under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, made the decision to close, and Ė as required Ė notified Congress 90 days before action was to be taken.

Third District Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Ala., wrote a letter to Abell Sept. 23 requesting operating figures from Fort McClellan and comparable stores.

Rogers wrote that AAFES requested assistance in 2001 for that and future years, but was denied. He said he wanted to ensure that every option has been exhausted before this benefit is eliminated.

"The Fort McClellan PXmart serves over 1,800 customers and means a great deal to several of my constituents, many of whom are elderly retirees who chose to stay in Calhoun County to utilize these benefits," the letter reads.

A spokesman for Rogers said he has yet to receive a response.

According to the DOD, the storeís total operating losses were $1.1 million in 2001 and $1.5 million in 2002.

A 1996 law authorizes the federal government to offset combined store losses, with assistance limited to 25 percent of the support received its last year as a regular commissary.

"No appropriated fund support has been provided to offset losses of the Fort McClellan combined store due to the limited number of active duty personnel at the location," a prepared statement from the DOD read.

The maximum level of support allowed for that store is $500,000 annually, which still would not be enough to make up the difference.


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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