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What is the Army and Air Force Exchange Service?

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Quick Answer

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service is a military-run organization providing shops and services for active service military personnel, reserves, retirees and their families. The exchange maintains facilities in all 50 states and numerous countries with the mission of supplying the armed forces with quality, low-cost goods and services.

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Full Answer

Established in 1941, the Army Exchange Service was set up to organize worldwide supply operations. When the Air Force split off from the Army as a separate branch of service in 1947, the exchange was run jointly, and in 1948 it became the Army and Air Force Exchange. In 2013, the Army and Air Force Exchange earned $8.3 billion in revenue and generated $332 million in earnings, most of which was given back to soldiers and their families in dividends. It maintained 2,443 facilities in the United States and 33 countries around the world.

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service is almost completely self-supporting, with 98 percent of its funding generated from sales of supplies and services and only 2 percent derived from appropriated funds, most of which goes towards supporting its operations overseas. As a service of the Department of Defense, a Board of Directors under the Secretaries of the Army and Air Force oversee the exchange. Many of the exchange employees are family members of military personnel and veterans. Exchange facilities include retail stores, clothing stores, gas stations and auto repair shops. The exchange also runs movie theaters, laundry and dry cleaners, and barber and beauty shops.

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