The commissary's senior enlisted adviser made a visit to Guam early this month to examine the produce situation, officials said and, according to some there during the visit, he didn't like what he saw.
"He came and visited our commissary and was not happy," said one family member stationed on Guam who asked not to be identified. He "said that he had already planned to visit next month, but when he saw what was being posted on social media, he changed plans and came as soon as possible. They were not expecting him, so it was a surprise."
Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. Stuart M. Allison, who has been the Defense Commissary Agency's (DeCA) senior enlisted adviser since 2014, visited the two commissaries on Guam from January 10-15 at the request of DeCA's director, Joseph Jeu, a commissary spokesman told Military.com in a statement.
DeCA came under fire after a contract change late last year resulted in drastic produce price hikes. Under a previous contract, the cost of shipping produce to Guam had been paid by taxpayers. Under the new contract, however, that cost is passed on to patrons as part of items' price tags. And while most prices had leveled off as of Jan. 10, bagged salad continued to cost an average of 200 percent more, officials said.
While price continues to be a concern, Allison said, many shoppers were also worried about product quality. Patrons had previously told Military.com that produce shipped by boat instead of being airlifted, which keeps costs down, is often wilted or spoils quickly.
"Through my discussions with service members and their families, I saw that their main focus wasn't necessarily on price but more on quality," he said in a statement. "We spent a lot of time ensuring the supplier understood our expectations for quality."
Allison also ordered a reorganization of the produce area at the Orote commissary on Naval Base Guam, officials said, and met with more than 150 patrons, including spouses.
"We were very well-received by our patrons in Guam. The customers feel that their voice was heard. And I can say that we heard their concerns, and we will do our best to address them," he said. "The overall purpose of our trip was simple: We wanted to be there to assess firsthand what the produce situation was in Guam and see what changes could be made to improve it. We also wanted to build up the communication with our customers and produce supplier."
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.