Fort Wainwright sees increase in Commissary customers after access expanded to disabled veterans

FAIRBANKS, Alaska. (KTVF) Starting January 1, access to Fort Wainwright services like the Commissary or Exchange was expanded to Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war, and all veterans with a service connected disability rating from Veterans Affairs. Registered caregivers of disabled veterans also qualify as well.

Produce section at the Fort Wainwright Commissary (Sara Tewksbury/KTVF)

Michael Durbin, facility manager with the Fort Wainwright Exchange, says they have been seeing more veterans start to use the facility. "There is nothing different. They have unlimited privileges, like they were active duty. All they need to show is their disabled veteran ID card, which they already have, and our associates are trained and ready to make their shopping experience as easy as possible."

Angela Harmon, commissary officer on Fort Wainwright, says they have already seen an influx of customers. "Every day I see new shoppers I've never seen before. It's nice, and they're all very friendly -- everybody's very friendly," said Harmon.

Harmon says their sales have been low due to the large number of soldiers currently deployed to the Middle East, so these new customers are helping bring sales up. "Our sales have been down, 40% down from last year. With this new influx of customers, our sales are only down 20%, so we have a good chance of getting our sales up even further,” said Harmon.

Harmon says with the sudden increase in customers, they have had some issues keeping shelves stocked. "I have had other customers complain that our shelves are getting emptier, but you know we are working on that. You don't know who's going to shop and how much your sales are going to be until that time," said Harmon.

Harmon wants the new shoppers to know that there is an added charge while checking out. "If they use their star card or food stamps or anything like that, they don't get that charge... but if they use a credit or debit card, they get a 1.9 percent charge, I think it is," said Harmon.

Harmon says this fee goes to the U.S. Department of Treasury to pay for the extra costs of making IDs for these veterans.

"The disabled veterans are just long overdue being able to come in and shop at the store and we welcome them with open arms," said Durbin.

On Fort Wainwright, the expanded access also pertains to the Nugget Lanes bowling alley, Outdoor Recreation's gear rental and trips, Chena River Campground, Chena Bend Golf Course, and Birch Hill Ski and Snowboard area.

For more information on the expanded access.

Copyright 2020 KTVF. All rights reserved.