FORT LEE, Va. — Seventeen years ago, as an Air Force staff sergeant assigned to Fort Hood, Texas, Stuart Allison knew the value of a dollar, because he and his wife were watching every one of them.
Command Chief Master Sgt. Stuart Allison (left), senior enlisted advisor to the DeCA director, and Command Chief Master Sgt. Stephen Kazmirski, Europe Area senior enlisted advisor, tour the Fort Lee, Va., Commissary during late November. Fort Lee Store Director Frank Hart (far right) and Assistant Commissary Officer Ronald Hurt hosted the tour. (DeCA photo: Ed Lamica)
“I was an E-5 and our budget was stretched very thin,” Allison said. “My wife and I were looking for every opportunity to save money. We always went to the commissary, two to three times per week — even for the convenience runs.”
Now as a command chief master sergeant and the Defense Commissary Agency’s senior enlisted advisor to the agency director, Allison is helping other service members and their families save money by promoting the commissary benefit. It’s a mission that he and DeCA’s senior enlisted advisor in Europe, Command Chief Master Sgt. Stephen Kazmirski, take to heart. “The benefit is exclusive to our nation’s military and their families,” Kazmirski said. “We sell groceries and household products at cost, saving you an annual
average of 30 percent compared to civilian
Kazmirski said even as a young airman he knew about the savings at the commissary. However, it wasn’t until he began deploying to Iraq in support of Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm and later Iraqi Freedom that he truly realized its value to his family.
“When I deployed, I didn’t have to worry about family support as much, knowing the commissary was there to provide a focal point for military families,” he said. “Commissary personnel understand what it means to serve families whenever they are separated from deployed service members. It gave me peace of mind, knowing this benefit was looking out for me and my family.”
As senior enlisted advisors, Allison and Kazmirski serve DeCA leadership as sounding boards for enlisted service members’ needs related to the commissary benefit. They also serve as the agency’s liaisons with the military’s senior enlisted leadership.
From DeCA’s Headquarters at Fort Lee, Va., Allison serves DeCA Director and CEO Joseph H. Jeu as his uniformed point of contact on agency-level issues that range from the Pentagon across the commissary enterprise. From Kapaun Air Station, Germany, Kazmirski advises Europe Area Director Norman Brown on topics germane to enlisted shoppers who access the benefit from England to Egypt.
Together, they bring their experiences as seasoned noncommissioned officers and lifelong users of the commissary benefit to the DeCA table. As such, they both relate to the commissary’s impact on military members and their families. And, they echo that message to troops around the world.
Allison and Kazmirski said they don’t miss an opportunity to use their benefit. For both, it’s a joint venture with their spouses to ensure they get the most from their shopping trip. Allison said he and his wife log onto the site and follow DeCA’s Facebook page to see what new promotions and additional savings are available. Kazmirski’s role is simple: His wife does the homework and he takes the list to the store.
Whatever the approach, DeCA’s senior enlisted advisors advocate that the journey to the commissary is well worth the trip.
“Our stores overseas are focused on delivering valued customer service while providing military members and their families access to American products while stationed abroad,” Kazmirski said. “Our patrons love the fact that our commissaries support them wherever they go.”
“Anytime someone wants to email me or Stephen a suggestion, comment or some feedback they are welcome to do so,” Allison said. “We want to know what our customers feel about their commissary benefit. It’s our job to bring their concerns or their praise to our executive leadership.”