Commissaries honor Air Force's 71 years of service
FORT LEE, Va. – On Sept.18, the U.S. Air Force will celebrate its 71st birthday. On that date in 1947, W. Stuart Symington, who had previously been the Assistant Secretary of War for Air, was sworn in as secretary for the newly created armed services branch, the U.S. Air Force.
The Army Air Forces was disbanded upon the creation of the U.S. Air Force, and the Air Force inherited the previous branch’s facilities, including their commissaries.
The Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) salutes the Air Force community on their service’s anniversary, which from the start has been served by commissaries worldwide.
Air Force commissaries were initially supplied by the Army Quartermaster Corps until the Air Force took over running them independently. Shelf-stocking and commodity-purchasing decisions were made at store level.
The Air Force commissaries proved to be most beneficial to military families deployed overseas with the occupying forces in Japan and Germany.
The commissary benefit has helped greatly with the recruitment and retention of the all-volunteer military which went into effect in 1973. In 1976, the formation of the Air Force Commissary Service (AFCOMS) centralized control for all Air Force commissaries, which numbered 181 at the time, under one service, headquartered at Kelly Air Force Base, Texas.
As recently as the late 1980s, there was little standardization, no uniformity, no continuity of operations and no career path for commissary workers – civilian or military. DeCA was formed in October 1991, tasked with centralizing all of the service commissaries into one agency.
Today, DeCA provides the commissary benefit for all military services and provides patrons thousands of dollars in savings each year when compared to civilian supermarkets.
Since 1947 members of the United States Air Force have established a superb record of valor, sacrifice and honor and have served honorably during and after the Cold War, during the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and are still serving proudly today.
-- By Tamara Eastman, DeCA historian
For photos on DeCA’s Flickr page, go to
About DeCA: The Defense Commissary Agency operates a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment. Commissaries provide a military benefit, saving authorized patrons thousands of dollars annually on their purchases compared to similar products at commercial retailers. The discounted prices include a 5-percent surcharge, which covers the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones. A core military family support element, and a valued part of military pay and benefits, commissaries contribute to family readiness, enhance the quality of life for America’s military and their families, and help recruit and retain the best and brightest men and women to serve their country.