Commissary and AAFES JobsUpdated: July 27, 2021
For military members and their families, commissaries and exchanges are not just places to get food, clothes, electronics, or other items. They are also a source of employment for currently serving military members, spouses, dependent children, veterans, and military retirees. The Commissary, AAFES outlets such as the Base Exchange (BX) or Post Exchange (PX), the Navy Exchange (NEX), Marine Exchange (MCX), and Coast Guard Exchange (CGX) regularly employ those from the military community. These jobs are plentiful, especially for those stationed overseas, and there are opportunities for those who want upward mobility within these companies.
What Is the Commissary?
The Commissary is essentially an on-base grocery store. These facilities are centrally owned and managed by the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) headquarters at Fort Lee, Virginia. Commissaries operate on military installations worldwide and provide groceries to military personnel, retirees, and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment. Items are priced fairly, and your total bill includes a 5-percent surcharge to cover the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones.
What is the Army and Air Force Exchange System (AAFES)?
The Army and Air Force Exchange System, or AAFES, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, has been operating on military installations in one form or another since 1895. AAFES operates BX/PX stores similar to big-box retail chains such as Kohl’s, Target, and Walmart. The agency runs the exchange system for both online shopping and on-base retail, and serves wherever you find military members.
The motto of AAFES is “We go where you go.” According to the official site, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service “has served the Nation’s armed forces during combat operations, humanitarian missions and military exercises around the world.” AAFES employees have “voluntarily deployed to serve troops during major wars, natural disasters, deep into jungles, high on mountaintops, and at tips of the spears in eastern Europe and South Korea.”
AAFES also runs on-base movie theaters, concessions, and other retail outlets on military bases in the United States and overseas. These stores feature tax-free shopping, discounted goods, and even a store credit card known as the Military Star Card.
Do the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Have an Exchange?
The Navy has its’ own version of AAFES, known as Navy Exchange or NEX for short. NEX headquarters is in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The Marines and Coast Guard also have exchanges for members of their military service.
Who Gets to Shop at These Facilities?
In the past, only those with valid military IDs could shop at AAFES and commissary locations. Dependents, retirees, and currently serving military members are all permitted, but civilian employees and other categories of DoD personnel have been left out in decades past. That policy has recently changed. Check out the current authorized personnel list with privileges at AAFES facilities worldwide. This list also applies to NEX, MCX, and CGX facilities.
Can I Work at Commissaries and Exchanges?
If you are interested in working at an Exchange facility should know there is no requirement to be in the military, nor a requirement that new hires be military family members or dependents. Base or Post Exchanges are run by AAFES and have one basic job requirement to be eligible for consideration:
“Our basic employment requirement is that you have a passion for providing excellent customer service and the desire to serve those who serve,” according to AAFES. There are entry-level jobs and more career-oriented management and corporate positions.
Commissary jobs may be slightly different depending on the applied positions. Some jobs are General Schedule (GS) pay-grade federal positions, while some may be considered more entry-level, and hiring may be done differently than for GS positions. GS hiring can be complicated with required background checks and drug screenings, while more entry-level positions may only require an interview and a resume review.
Are There Special Hiring Considerations for Military Spouses and Family Members?
For both exchanges and DeCA, hiring preference may be extended to military members, spouses, or dependents. These preferences may depend on the type of job openings available, whether the position requires a GS rating in the case of DeCA employees, and how long the applicant is available to work in a given location. This is the case for overseas work and sometimes even stateside hires. DeCA directs military spouses and family members to resources like Military OneSource to learn more about hiring preferences and opportunities.
AAFES has a special section on its official site for military spouses and family members. There are certain conditions for hiring preference and special hiring opportunities.
How Do I Find Exchange Jobs?
Since AAFES does not only operate BX and PX outlets, there may be a large pool of jobs to choose from at a given military base or post. It’s possible to apply for AAFES jobs online on the AAFES official site. The AAFES official site lists internship programs, management training opportunities, career offerings for those leaving military service, and much more.
Many of the same rules and issues apply to NEX, MCX, and CGX retail jobs as the AAFES and DeCA jobs, including the NEX policy of not requiring its employees to be in the military or military dependents. You can search for and find exchange jobs at NEX, MCX, and CGX. Like AAFES, these jobs are not considered Civil Service positions.
How Do I Find Commissary Jobs?
Finding a job opening with the Defense Commissary Agency is centralized-the DeCA official site directs job seekers to search USAJobs.gov site. Once there, doing a general search on “DeCA jobs” will bring up both entry-level work, such as tellers, baggers, and clerks at commissaries worldwide, but also higher-level and federal GS positions.
Some of these jobs require minimum experience and basic education requirements, while others may demand an extensive resume and professional experience. Some DeCA overseas jobs don’t pay for relocation expenses, while others may.
Can I Apply for Exchange and DeCA Jobs Via Indeed, SimplyHired, or Other Job Boards?
It is strongly recommended to apply directly via the job links from Exchange or DeCA official sites. In addition, third-party job boards like Indeed.com, SimplyHired, and others may redirect you to the AAFES or DeCA job pages.
Where Are These Facilities? Does Every Military Base Have Exchanges and a Commissary?
Exchanges and DeCA run their businesses inside military bases all over the world. Exchanges can even be found in forward-deployed locations, aboard ships, or anywhere depending on mission requirements, safety issues, or logistics support.
Not all military bases have a commissary, but many overseas installations, posts, and bases do. AAFES provides retail services at many military bases, but their “footprint” may not include a BX or PX. It depends on the size of the base and the permanence of the installation.
Exchanges are only part of the big picture. Exchanges also operate bookstores, mini-marts, and liquor stores known to military members as “Class Six” stores.
Is There a Commissary Near Me?
There is a searchable database of DeCA commissary locations worldwide based on your zip code, state, country, or physical address.
Is There an Exchange Near Me?
Check out each of the service Exchange homepages to find a location near you:
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News