Alaska National Guard assists with one-day Commissary shopping event in Bethel

by 1st Lt. Balinda O’Neal Dresel

The Alaska National Guard is transporting goods for the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) to the remote village hub of Bethel, in order to provide discounted groceries to eligible military- and DoD-affiliated patrons during a one-day event scheduled on Aug. 7. Between July 14-19, authorized customers may request desired items in advance to be available for purchase at the sale.

Commissary grocery shopping is an earned benefit that is accessible to those near or able to drive to a military installation. Alaska is one-fifth the size of the continental U.S. and travel to most village communities is not accessible via road travel. Alaskan retirees, for example, in these remote locations are not able to readily use their Commissary shopping benefits, and this is a challenge DeCA and the Alaska National Guard are working to address.

“Due to the uniqueness and geographical isolation in Alaska, it can be challenging for eligible personnel to get access to the benefits that they have earned through service to their country,” said Command Chief Master Sgt. Winfield Hinkley, Alaska National Guard Senior Enlisted Leader. “We are proud to partner with DeCA to help realize their goal of providing commissary benefits to all eligible patrons.”

In addition to providing the facility for the event, the Alaska National Guard is assisting by providing required personnel, transportation and equipment. The event will take place at the Alaska Army National Guard Aviation Facility and the Alaska Air National Guard is transporting the goods on a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft.

“There is a very real possibility that during a disaster we could be called upon to provide food to a local community,” said Hinkley, who explained that people are our greatest resource and this includes veterans, retirees, active service members and their families. “This training mission is two-fold as it affords us the opportunity to demonstrate our capabilities while supporting the local community.”

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Rural Health Programs, State of Alaska’s Office of Veterans Affairs, and Alaska National Guard’s Warrior and Family Services and Retirement Services, and volunteers from the Alaska State Defense Force will also have staff on site to support and provide information for attendees.

“This mission is another way to demonstrate our commitment to take care of our members, families and retirees from recruitment through retirement,” said Hinkley.

In order to better prepare for the one-day event, the Alaska National Guard is requesting that eligible patrons suggest quantities of desired items until July 19 to facilitate the number of each product that will be available on site. Item quantities will be limited. Please see the attached list of available items and provide input to Staff Sgt. Paul Wilbanks at [email protected] or to request a copy of available items via contact Wilbanks at 907-545-0549.

On the day of the event, goods will be available to be purchased on a first come, first serve basis. No reservations will be taken. According to DeCA, the on-site sale method of payment will be cash and credit card only, no checks.

Below is list of authorized patrons who may make purchases at the sale. Shoppers must ensure they meet eligibility requirements and have proof of eligibility.

▪ Uniformed personnel

▪ Wage Marine personnel

▪ Retired personnel

▪ Authorized family members of the personnel listed above

▪ Medal of Honor recipients

▪ 100 percent disabled veterans

▪ DoD civilian employees stationed outside the U.S.

▪ Official DoD and U.S. military services organizations and activities

▪ Hospitalized veterans

▪ DoD presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed (PAS) officers

▪ DoD civilian employees assigned to the U.S. Territories and Possessions

▪ DoD civilian employees on official temporary duty (TDY) orders in overseas locations

▪ Military personnel of foreign nations

▪ Bulk sales to non-DoD government departments or agencies in overseas areas

▪ Civilian employees of non-DoD U.S. government departments or agencies outside the U.S. and outside the U.S. Territories and Possessions

▪ American National Red Cross (ARC) personnel

▪ United Service Organization (USO)

▪ United Seamen’s Service (USS)

▪ Organizational representative

▪ DoD civilian employees residing on an installation within the U.S.

▪ U.S. Non-governmental organizations, firms under contract to the DoD, and their employees stationed outside the U.S., and outside the U.S. Territories and Possessions

▪ Non-DoD U.S. federal employees serving in the U.S. Territories and Possessions

Authorized patrons are required to present one of the following identifications to purchase:

▪ DoD Common Access Card (CAC), DD Form 2, DD Form 1173, or DD Form 1173-1

▪ DD Form 214

▪ Official ID card issued by the military service of which the patron is affiliated, NOAA, or USPHS

▪ Official DoD forms presented with positive ID such as DD Form 4, Enlistment/ Reenlistment Document Armed Forces of the U.S.; DD Form 1610, Request and Authorization for TDY travel of DoD personnel

▪ DD Form 1618, Department of Defense (DoD) Transportation Agreement Transfer of Civilian Employees to and within continental U.S.

There will be an opportunity for eligible patrons with expired identification cards to be verified through an on-site Defense Enrollment Eligibility Repotting System liaison. Please be sure to bring your expired ID or other form of identification.

Event dates are subject to change due to inclement weather, so patrons are encouraged to check with SSG Paul Wilbanks on day of event.