One of the ways the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) helps make sure it is keeping customers happy is the Exchange Retiree Advisory Council (ERAC).
As of this spring, the ERAC got its first-ever member whose primary mission is to represent military families -- not just retired service members.
The National Military Family Association (NMFA) officially joined the council after years of a "long-standing relationship," said Chris Ward, an AAFES spokesman.
Other members of the council, of course, also advocate for families. The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) both have stellar family sections. But NMFA is laser-focused on family issues.
NMFA officials said they are excited to have a seat at the table where they can work closely with AAFES to get issues in front of those officials in a new way.
"NMFA has had a long relationship with AAFES, but we've also long felt that the voice of the currently serving family was not present the way it needed to be in AAFES's discussions with groups representing other segments of its patron base as the only headquarters level discussions were through the Retiree Council," Joyce Raezer, NMFA's director told me in an email. "We are honored by the invitation to join the council and to bring the concerns of our currently serving families to these discussions and also to obtain information through these discussions we can take back to our families."
Military exchanges and commissaries are open for in-person, on-base shopping only for retirees, active-duty families, Guard and reservists and their families, Medal of Honor recipients, and veterans with 100 percent service-connected disability ratings.
A new program started last year allows online exchange shopping for all honorably discharged veterans.
The current ERAC format was rolled out in 2010. Prior to NMFA joining the board, the last addition was the Air Force Sergeants Association, which joined in 2012, Ward said.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.