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Laughlin’s commissary is essential to the mission

Marisol Cantu, Defense Commissary Agency sales store checker, scans groceries behind a plastic shield to protect the cashiers from germs, March 31, 2020 at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. Commissary workers at Laughlin are considered essential personnel during COVID-19 to ensure Airmen here are able to pursue the mission. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

Marisol Cantu, Defense Commissary Agency sales store checker, scans groceries behind a plastic shield to protect the cashiers from germs, March 31, 2020 at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. Commissary workers at Laughlin are considered essential personnel during COVID-19 to ensure Airmen here are able to pursue the mission. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

Kim Cariaga, Defense Commissary Agency head bagger, places groceries in bags for customers on March 31, 2020 at the commissary at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. According to an article by DeCA Cooperate Communications, commissaries and its support facilities have been designated mission-critical as part of the Department of Defense during COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

Kim Cariaga, Defense Commissary Agency head bagger, places groceries in bags for customers on March 31, 2020 at the commissary at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. According to an article by DeCA Cooperate Communications, commissaries and its support facilities have been designated mission-critical as part of the Department of Defense during COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

Senior Airman Jackson Gaul, 47th Flying Training Wing Wing Staff Agencies egress journeyman, assists the commissary employees by checking identification and ensures only 25 customers are in the store at any given time on March 31, 2020 at the commissary at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. According to an article by DeCA Corporate Communications, commissaries and its support facilities have been designated mission-critical as part of the Department of Defense during COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

Senior Airman Jackson Gaul, 47th Flying Training Wing Wing Staff Agencies egress journeyman, assists the commissary employees by checking identification and ensures only 25 customers are in the store at any given time on March 31, 2020 at the commissary at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. According to an article by DeCA Corporate Communications, commissaries and its support facilities have been designated mission-critical as part of the Department of Defense during COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE—Not many customers interact with their store cashier and think their job is as crucial as a paramedic’s, firefighter’s or police officer’s.

As it turns out, they are.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Defense announced on March 25 that all Defense Commissary Agency operations, including the commissary at Laughlin Air Force Base, are mission-critical.

Col. Lee Gentile, 47th Flying Training Wing commander, observes the commissary as one of the center points of life at Laughlin. 

Commissary employees are essential to Laughlin because COVID-19 is sweeping through the country, making it difficult to access the groceries Airmen need for day-to- day life.

“Our mission is the Airman, and without our commissary staff, we can’t complete the mission.” Ruben Gomez, Defense Commissary Agency Laughlin Commissary officer said.

A benefit of the new designation is the ability for stores to establish purchase limits to ensure stock levels meet any customer demand.

“We’re doing our best to stock the shelves for people on base, their families and retirees,” Gomez said. “Another measure we’re taking is sanitizing anything that may be touched by customers. Even on the day off, we go above and beyond to degrease, sanitize and steam the shopping carts.”

Second Lt. Anthony Randazzo, 47th Student Squadron student pilot, is one of many at Laughlin who appreciate the commissary workers who serve the base even when times are tough.

“Just knowing the commissary is open and there’s a place I can go that’s a little closer and safer helps me save time and stay healthy for training,” Randazzo said. “It’s awesome the commissary is still open and supporting those of us learning to be pilots and those who support the mission. What the commissary staff is doing does not go unnoticed.”

U.S. Navy Retired Rear Adm. Robert J. Bianchi, Department of Defense special assistant for commissary operations, says being designated mission-critical further reinforces the commissary’s responsibility to effectively and efficiently deliver the commissary benefit to millions of service members and their families worldwide who need it during this outbreak.