CAMP HANSEN, Japan - For Marines and sailors stationed on Camps Hansen and Schwab, a trip to the commissary requires a great deal of time and effort. With the closest commissary located on Camp Courtney, more than 30 minutes from Hansen and an hour from Schwab, Marines and sailors generally have to wait for the weekend to purchase groceries.
Once a quarter, employees with the Camp Courtney Commissary bring a variety of goods to the camps via the Commissary on Wheels.
With each visit, the Commissary on Wheels offers a broad selection of drinks, vegetables, fresh fruits and meats, which are not readily available in the northern camps’ stores.
“The primary place of eating for Marines and sailors aboard Hansen and Schwab is the mess hall,” said Mark L. Roberts, the camp director of Camp Hansen. “For that reason, plus the fact we are less populated on the northern camps, we don’t have commissaries. The Commissary on Wheels is a great treat for the service members up north because it is not something they see very often. When the Commissary on Wheels is coming, word spreads fast to the service members, and you can see a lot of them taking advantage of it.”
The program, which has been in place for approximately four years, also accepts requests for specific items available for purchase at the quarterly visits, according to Frank Santos, a grocery manager for the Camp Courtney Commissary.
“Everything we do is for the service members,” said Santos. “It’s great to come out here, be a part of this program, and see the excited looks on the service members’ faces when we come out here. We wish we could be up here more often.”
Every time the Commissary on Wheels visits a northern camp, Marines and sailors are excited and enthusiastic about it, according to Cpl. Alexander M. Clem, a supply administration and operations specialist with 7th Communication Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III MEF.
“I know a lot of people who will be shopping at the exchange, see the Commissary on Wheels outside, and completely stop what they’re doing to go shop,” said Clem. “It really is an awesome thing for us. Quite a few service members do not think about what it would be like to not have a commissary on their camp. Even though this is only quarterly, it is a great thing and I take full advantage of it.”
The Commissary on Wheels brings with it about eight employees, including cashiers and managers.
“Even though we provide the employees, the Marines with Camp Services always come out to help us assemble and disassemble our displays,” said Santos. “They play a huge part in our success, and I’m always amazed at our Marines’ willingness to volunteer.”
Once at the respective camps, the Commissary on Wheels is set up inside the post exchange, making it highly visible and easily accessible.
The Commissary on Wheels improves the quality of life on the northern camps, especially for junior Marines, according to Troy Yarbough, a produce manager with the Camp Courtney Commissary.
“I enjoy my job and what I’m able to do for the troops stationed out here,” said Yarbough.
For more information about future Commissary on Wheels’ visits, call 622-7590.