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AAFES is the “Army and Air Force Exchange Service,” the business monopoly that operates PXs (post exchanges) and other stores on Army installations, and BXs (base exchanges) on Air Force installations.

Fort XYZ has a number of AAFES stores. There are several PXs of various sizes. One is more or less like a Wal-Mart; another is pretty big too and sells electronic items and furniture. Others are convenience stores, and some sell gasoline.

When the U.S. Army invaded Iraq in 2003, an AAFES representative was in Baghdad just six days after the 3rd Infantry Division had taken the Baghdad airport. Three days later, a convoy had arrived with merchandise, and the next day AAFES had a PX open for business. (After the first five hours, the PX had raked in $80,000.)

AAFES now has 51 stores in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 60 call centers for troops to call home.

Then there are the fast-food franchises.

In 1983, Congress gave AAFES permission to operate franchises of name brand hamburger restaurants. A year later, in 1984, AAFES signed a franchise agreement with Burger King Corporation to open franchises on Army and Air Force bases worldwide. That’s why Burger King is so common on Army bases. At Fort XYZ there are several. So eating at a Burger King is no problem, as long as you have the money.

Burger King’s presence is a little ironic, when I reflect upon it – because back in Army Basic Training, the drill sergeants would say to the trainees: “This is not Burger King; you can’t have it your way.”

But later, when the trainee gets out and is on his regular base, sometimes he actually can go to Burger King. And sometimes he can actually have it his way.

Thanks to AAFES.

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