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COVID-19 Heroes: FA, Keesler AFB Exchange help new recruits soar

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a new reality on installations around the world, and when recruits arrived at Keesler Air Force Base for Basic Military Training, Exchange associates stepped up to make sure all their needs were met.

In April, 60 trainees were originally scheduled to report to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, but COVID-19 concerns required a move to Keesler.

“Normally, the recruits would be given what’s called EZ Pay cards for $400 to get uniforms, backpacks and other basic supplies,” said Stacey Adamson, an accounting manager in the Finance and Accounting department at Exchange headquarters.
When it became uncertain that those cash cards, funded by the Air Force, would be available because of the pandemic, Adamson and several associates at the Keesler Exchange provided Exchange gift cards preloaded with $400 and filled backpacks with supplies “kind of like care packages,” Adamson said.

“We created a new program that never existed before and will continue at least through October,” she said. The program could ultimately serve as many as 500 Airmen a week.

The Air Force will reimburse the Exchange for the cost of the gift cards, Adamson said.

Adamson’s work earned high praise from Senior Master Sgt. Gareth Davis, superintendent of the Comptroller Squadron and Wing Staff Agencies at Keesler.

“Ms. Adamson’s service was a breath of fresh air, and my team left every conversation/exchange just wowed by her professionalism and ‘can-do’ attitude,” Davis said.

“Between Ms. Adamson’s actions and the phenomenal support from the local base Exchange, my perspective on AAFES changed from a corporate-minded business partner to a mission-enabling mission partner.”

Keesler Exchange Main Store Manager Jessica Ball-Wever said Exchange associates started working on the care packages in March “when we were suddenly thrown into a new world.”

“We were really living out our core values,” Ball-Wever said. “When everything with COVID-19 started, we said to our team, ‘This is our new mission. This is how the Exchange is going to help these Airmen and deepen our connection to Keesler.’”

For Davis, the Exchange succeeded in creating customers for life.

“To be clear, this project was only a success due to the outstanding service that AAFES provided,” he said.