2016 – A Stellar Year in Paradise

BY LT.J.G. AARON BUCHANAN, SC, USN, SHIP’S STORE OFFICER, U.S. NAVY SUPPORT FACILITY DIEGO GARCIA

Anyone who has served a tour or briefly stopped in Diego Garcia for personnel or provisions, fuel, food, or crew rest, knows the uniqueness of this duty station. The atoll of Diego Garcia is in the Chagos Islands located on a large shoal area known as the Great Chagos Bank. Diego Garcia is the largest of 55 islands that form the Chagos Archipelago within the British Indian Ocean Territory and is known as the “Footprint of Freedom” for its shape, regional location, and strategic importance. The island is located seven degrees south of the equator, very close to the geographic center of the Indian Ocean. Diego Garcia was discovered by Portuguese explorers in the early 16th century, and its name is believed to have come from either an early explorer’s ship captain or navigator.

NSF Diego Garcia commanding officer delivers a $300,000 check to MWR, accompanied by ship’s store military and contract personnel.

NSF Diego Garcia commanding officer delivers a $300,000 check to MWR, accompanied by ship’s store military and contract personnel.

Another unique detail of Diego Garcia is that it boasts the largest ship’s store in the Navy. Diego Garcia ship’s store features more than 4,500 line items that range from cycling equipment to large electronics; frozen foods to sundries; and produce to emblematic items. A chief petty officer and two first class petty officers with ship’s serviceman backgrounds provide oversight and subject matter expertise for a 73-person contractor team that manages the storefront, warehouses, and services on the island. Through contract partnering, we provide the sole local source of unprepared food, clothing, electronics, sports equipment, and other important basics for nearly 3,000 island residents and visitors. The services division also provides personal services, including barber and beauty shops, laundry, and uniform tailoring.

2016 was a busy year for U.S. Navy Support Facility (NSF) Diego Garcia, and the ship’s store was here to support throughout. We had numerous visiting ships and squadrons from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, Royal Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, and Japanese Maritime Self-defense Force. We also supported numerous Flag officer visits, including Commander, Navy Installation Command’s first visit to Diego Garcia since he assumed command.

As Diego Garcia wraps up 2016, our ship’s store team has reason to be proud. Hard work and diligent efforts have produced the best sales and profit figures in the decade since Operation Iraqi Freedom. This year, our team is celebrating $6.8 million in sales and an exceptional $986,000 in profit. These superb results allowed us to contribute $763,000 to our local Morale, Welfare, and Recreation program; greatly enhancing the island spirit and quality of life in a duty station where all Sailors, Airmen and civilians spend their tours unaccompanied.

NSF Diego Garcia ship’s store “One Island, One Team, One Mission.”

NSF Diego Garcia ship’s store “One Island, One Team, One Mission.”

 

Ship’s Store Supervisor Donald Bradley is a retired ship’s serviceman and attributes this noteworthy year to:

  • an expanded selection of products procured from Navy Exchange (NEX) Japan, offering customers a bigger and better selection of electronics and bicycles;
  • a diversified selection of clothing and emblematic items;
  • Navy Exchange Service Command for introducing branding to the island and helping to give our store the outstanding quality display you recognize every time you walk into a NEX, “It’s Your Store!”;
  • continuous training of cashiers and stockers on proper merchandising and recognizing their efforts through monthly awards; and
  • installation of new coolers for frozen foods and meat.

Cmdr. K. A. Applegate, USN, who serves as site director, NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Detachment Diego Garcia and supply officer, U.S. NSF Diego Garcia, remarked on the service and effort that the services division puts forth every day. “It took me awhile to understand and appreciate how this operation works. You would not realize that you are not shopping in an NEX complex anywhere in the Navy from the looks of the store or the attitude of its contract employees. I am impressed every day, both as a department head and a customer!”

Chief Petty Officer Chris Tapparo and First Class Petty Officers Chris Lawson and ThomJames Pecson are some of the sharpest Sailors with whom I have had the pleasure to work. Our contract team consists of some of the hardest working individuals I have ever met, and is a group of people who genuinely love their job. They do an amazing job every day and it is always service with a smile. – Lt. j.g. Aaron Buchanan, SC, USN

January/February 2017