DeCA Observes Another Major Milestone

DeCA Observes Another Major Milestone

The Defense Commissary Agency, an operator of 177 locations with North American sales of $3.7 billion, will observe the 153rd anniversary of the commissary benefit on July 1, making it the oldest U.S. military resale program.

"I've always been an advocate for the commissary," said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Tomeka N O'Neal, the Defense Commissary Agency's senior enlisted advisor to the agency director. “Throughout my career I've told anyone who would listen that the savings in the commissary are real, and they are losing out if they don't take advantage of this benefit."

The modern day commissary benefit available to military personnel and retirees dates back to July 1, 1867, when enlisted men began receiving the same shopping privileges at the subsistence stores that had been available to officers since 1825. In 1867, most commissary sales stores were set up in abandoned warehouses. Over time these subsistence stores became sales commissaries and sold goods at cost in order to provide soldiers with food at reasonable prices, according to DeCA, as the agency is known.

DeCA Observes Another Major Milestone

In 1899 the first overseas commissary opened in Cuba. Another store opened in China in 1900 and in Panama in 1904. By World War I, the U.S. was operating commissary stores in France. By the time World War II ended, the U.S. was operating commissaries worldwide, and they have existed on every continent except Antarctica in more than a thousand locations. Today, DeCA continues to serve the military and its families at nearly 240 stores in 13 countries, including the 177 North American locations.

Each military branch originally ran their own commissaries until 1990, when Congress and the Department of Defense decided to consolidate the individual service commissary systems under one agency — the Defense Commissary Agency, which officially formed on Oct. 1, 1991.

Today, commissaries operate in much the same manner as other food retailers, but access to stores is restricted, so most shoppers never experience what DeCA has to offer. The stores offer commissary store brands and there is a "Your Everyday Savings! (YES!)" loyalty program, which helps stateside customers get extra savings on the hundreds of frequently purchased items. Customers can also go online and register their Commissary Rewards Cards for access to digital coupons for additional savings.

"Your local commissary is still the No. 1 choice for all sorts of quality meat, fresh corn on the cob, watermelon, and ice cream and more," O'Neal said. "Your commissary helps you improve your quality of life by helping you save thousands of dollars annually on your grocery bill.”

The Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) is No. 56 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer's list of the top food retailers in North America.

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