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AAFES offers career advancement

Two programs offer pathway to management

Lydia Morris, JBLM Exchange HR Manager, is a wealth of information on the AAFES’ employment programs. Photo provided by Lydia Morris

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Many military spouses think of working at the Base or Post Exchange as a job opportunity but are unaware of the career potential. The Army Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) offers programs that provide a pathway into management.

The Exchange's Retail Management Academy (RMA) and Restaurant Operations Management Academy (ROMA) programs are designed to provide training to AAFES non-management associates that qualify for the program, and are interested in pursuing a management career in retail or restaurant operations. According to Lydia Morris, JBLM Exchange HR Manager, "One of the qualifications is that you must have a satisfactory evaluation on file before you can apply for the program. As our initial evaluations are conducted after six months of employment, new hires can apply for the next rotation after that time period. RMA/ROMA sessions are offered in the spring and summer; however, JBLM participates based on projected need for entry-level managers and participant interest levels. There is not a minimum education requirement. We also have two additional programs: Advanced Retail Management Training and Veteran Retail Management Training." 

Military spouses often struggle with finding a meaningful career especially with frequent moves. They often find themselves starting over at each new duty station. AAFES is committed to military spouse employment.

"The Exchange is very passionate about employing military spouses, as well as maintaining employment after a PCS or ETS, if there is an Exchange within commuting distance. Personally, I am co-chair of the Retail/Hospitality/Tourism committee that was formed after the launch of the Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone in Olympia last year. We are actively seeking additional employers in the area to partner on this effort to battle military spouse unemployment and underemployment," said Morris.

"On Exchange employment applications, military spouses who self-identify are given preference in determining candidate pools. We also have recently redeveloped the Exchange Associate Transfer Program to assist family members in maintaining Exchange employment, without a break in service. Military spouses are ideal team members because they are the embodiment of one of the Exchange's Core Values: Family Serving Family. No one better understands the nuances of the military community than the military spouse," she added.

Military spouses who think this might be a good fit for them are encouraged to take the first step to seek employment at your local AAFES store. Applications are accepted online at In the location, search "Fort Lewis" or "McChord," not JBLM. You must work at the Exchange and receive a good evaluation after six months to apply for the program. Make an appointment with your supervisor or store manager to discuss the program and then submit an application. Your store manager will evaluate you for readiness for the program and write a recommendation. The program is 16 weeks long and will give you the skills necessary for an entry-level management position. Completion of the program does not guarantee a promotion. Graduates will be considered for local vacant entry-level management positions.

For more information on employment at AAFES, visit:

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