News: DC based AAFES Express undergoing renovation to protect public health and safety
Story by Joseph P Cirone
WASHINGTON – The Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) Express, formerly known as the Shoppette, was closed March 1 after a routine health inspection revealed the presence of rodents.
Further inspection revealed multiple entry points and some significant damage, caused by the rodents. The building is undergoing renovation to make needed repairs and ensure the public’s health and safety.
Judd Anstey, spokesperson for AAFES, said, “The Express is closed to address wear and tear that has contributed to pest access to the interior of the facility.”
When the health inspection information became available, JBAB Base commander, Navy Capt. Anthony T. Calandra and vice commander, Air Force Col. Michael E. Saunders took immediate action, coordinating with AAFES representatives and their contractors to ensure that the public’s health was fully protected.
The two leaders ordered that all known issues were properly addressed and that an extensive survey be conducted to discover any unknown issues and to address those as well.
To ensure that the work is not rushed and is done with high quality, the reopening date for the Express has not yet been determined, but is not too distant, according to Calandra.
Calandra said, “We want to ensure that the repairs are made right the first time and only once, to prevent the rodents from reappearing.”
The Express is a convenience-like store located at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling on the southern side of the installation, near the AAFES Exchange and the Defense Commissary Agency Commissary.
It offers convenience store food, drink and other items and also houses a Dunkin' Donuts food establishment and a Firestone vehicle repair and maintenance facility.
Health and welfare is primary concern
“We understand there is some inconvenience in closing the Express for a period of time, but we took the immediate action necessary to protect the health and welfare of the base population and guests, which is our primary concern,” Saunders said.
The pests have been eliminated. Work is now being performed to replace walls and ceilings and seal entrances and cracks around pipes and the building’s foundation, including adding wire mesh, to prevent future problems, according to a source familiar with the scope of the work.
Once the work is completed, the building will thoroughly cleaned, sanitized and re-inspected, before it is permitted to reopen, Calandra said.
Fuel, alternatives available
The AAFES gasoline station located on the same property, continues normal operations.
The nearby AAFES Exchange and DECA Commissary are alternatives to purchase many of the same convenience store food, drink and other items that was offered at the Express.
Class Six (alcoholic beverages) items have been added to the Exchange until the Express reopens. “Beer, wine and spirit deliveries are occurring regularly,” Anstey said.
Air Force Maj. Joanne Conley, public health flight commander at the 579th Medical Group, located at JBAB, stated that her team regularly performs inspections of public facilities at JBAB, including the Express.
“We monitor every food facility on the installation. We conduct strict inspections that adhere to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s food code. We also adhere to strict Air Force public health codes," she said.
None of the food that was located at the Express was or will be resold. The food items for sale at the Exchange [and Commissary] were never inside the Express. Food for sale at the Exchange is a totally different stock of goods, according to two reliable sources.
Strict food and public health codes enforced
Detailed inspections occur monthly and are stepped up in both intensity and frequency if any variations from the strict codes are detected, Conley stated.
Air Force Col. Kathryn F. Tate, commander of the 579th said, “The guidelines are standardized and used by all public health food inspectors throughout the entire Air Force.”
To help ensure cleanliness and food wholesomeness to prevent illness, the 579th also conducts food handler training and monitors weekly self-inspections that food facilities at JBAB must perform.
Inspections include not only food handling and operations; facility cleaning and sanitizing, but even documentation (paperwork) that traces the food, handling and its care from the point of origin; its transport and its delivery to the food facilities at JBAB, Conley reported.
“We monitor the process from farm to fork,” Conley concluded.