MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Marines from several MCAGCC units got a close-up look at their commissary and its advantages March 7 as part of Commissary Awareness Campaign 2001. The campaign was originally part of the Army's Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program, similar to the Marines' Single Marine Program. MCAGCC is one of only two Marine bases, along with Camp Lejeune, N.C., to conduct BOSS-style commissary awareness tours.
"Base commissaries have been voted the number one military benefit for the past several years," said Bruce Griffith, store administrator. He told Marines that, on average, they can save 25 to 30 percent off what they would normally spend at a convenience store or a civilian grocery store.
One of the prime benefits at the commissary, Griffith said, is the yellow-tagged "Best Value Item." Such items are guaranteed to be the lowest on base and throughout the surrounding area.
"Our goal is to give Marines the best product possible at the best possible price," Griffith said.
Marines toured the major commissary departments, such as produce, meats and the deli. Employees from those departments explained what Marines can expect while shopping at the commissary, including higher-quality meats, fruits and vegetables. The meat and produce departments also offer recipe cards and, periodically, free samples of new or featured items.
The deli offers cold cuts by the pound or slice, cheeses and some cakes, cookies and pastries. It also has affordable pre-made sandwiches and daily soup specials. Customers may also pre-order meat and cheese party trays with 24-hours notice.
"This is a small deli, but you wouldn't believe the product they generate," Griffith said. "They really do a terrific job."
The small deli, and the rest of the commissary, may not stay that way for long. Griffith said plans are underway to build a new commissary. Those plans, however, have yet to be approved by the Defense Commissary Agency, the government organization that controls all military commissaries.
"The plan was to renovate the existing commissary, but the engineers said it would cost about as much to renovate as it would to build a new one," Griffith said. "The engineers are pushing for a new building."
Marines on the commissary tour were impressed with what they saw.
"I can save money here. It's cheaper than the other stores. I might come here more often; it depends on what I need," said PFC Michael Donald, 21, of Baltimore, a tank mechanic with Combat Service Support Group 1.
MAGTF Training Command Sergeant Major, SgtMaj. William Bulkley, who helped organize the local Commissary Awareness Campaign, said he plans to conduct similar tours for Marines over the next few months.
"The Army's been doing this for years, and I think it's a good idea," Bulkley said. "Pay's short. The commissary's a good way for young Marines to save money."
The commissary, however, is located far from single Marines and Sailors living in barracks. If they have no car, the commissary is not a convenient option. Some Marines on the tour mentioned this fact as the commissary's only drawback.
"If you utilize the commissary, you can save a lot price-wise, but if Marines don't have POVs, it's hard to get there," said LCpl. Jose Leusch, 20, of Rock Hill, S.C., an S-3 clerk with Headquarters and Support Co., 3rd Bn., 4th Marines.
Bulkley said a commissary shuttle might be an option in the future, but that will be decided after Marines from upcoming commissary tours weigh in with their input.
"We'll see how many Marines need it, then maybe we'll work on getting a shuttle out here," Bulkley said.