On July 1, the commissary system celebrated 150 years of existence. Fort Bragg has two commissaries.
In last week’s article about the shoppettes around Fort Bragg, I mistakenly wrote that the commissaries are run by the Army and Air Force Exchange, when in fact the commissaries are run by the Defense Commissary Agency.
Commissary history
Commissary benefits originally weren’t available for all Soldiers. Originally an officers benefit, commissaries became available for enlisted Soldiers as well shortly after the Civil War on July 1, 1867. The commissary was a place where Soldiers could buy goods at cost, making items cheaper for them.
The year 1867 marks the “modern” age of the commissary. Not only could all Soldiers benefit from the savings of the commissaries, but the stores were available wherever a commanding officer thought they could be necessary.
By 1905, commissaries had spread to Cuba, Panama and the Phillipines. During the World Wars, commissaries spread even further abroad. Commissaries were run by the post commanders at the time. This meant that every commissary was run and stocked a little differently.
In 1949, the Armed Services Commissary Store Regulation took effect. This regulation provided more uniformity in how commissaries were run, stocked and employed throughout the armed services. Eventually, each of the four branches had their own commissary system.
DeCA
In 1991, facing military cutbacks, Congress approved the forming of the Defense Commissary Agency.
DeCA overtook all commissaries and operations on October 1, 1991. DeCA combined all four commissary services into one agency.
DeCA’s headquarters is in Fort Lee, Virginia. Army Maj. Gen. John P. Dreska was appointed the first DeCA director. In the 26 years of DeCA’s existence, a variety of Soldiers and civilians have been directors. Michael J. Dowling is the current acting director of DeCA.
The employees at the commissaries are paid through federal funds. Soldiers and their Families can shop at the commissaries tax free, however, there is a five percent surcharge added to bill totals during checkout.
The surcharge helps to pay for the upkeep of current stores and to pay for new stores.
According to the DeCA website, “patrons save an average of more than 30 percent on their grocery bills. That level of savings, verified by the agency’s Price Comparison Study, amounts to approximately $4,500 per year for a Family of four that regularly shops in a commissary.”
DeCA brands
DeCA has recently started to come out with their own labels for products in commissaries. The brands began a limited release in May and will continue to be expanded.
Freedom’s Choice is DeCA’s new food brand. Homebase is the DeCA brand for non-food items, such as toilet paper and plastic bags.
The DeCA brands will be gradually rolled out over a four-year period and inventory is expected to be around 4,000 items.
Commissaries at Fort Bragg
As previously mentioned, Fort Bragg has two commissaries: North and South.
The South Commissary is closest to the Reilly Access Control Point. A Post Exchange is attached to the commissary.
Their normal hours are from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., although holiday hours vary. Early bird hours begin at 7:30 a.m. Early bird hours are for shoppers who require 15 items or less.
The North Commissary is closest to the Butner Access Control Point. The North PX is located across the street, but attached to the commissary itself is a furniture store. This commissary is also open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. with early bird hours beginning at 7:30 a.m.
For more information about the commissaries and DeCA, please visit www.commissaries.com.