During the COVID-19 pandemic, military retail is doing all it can to keep exchanges and commissaries well stocked and clean while supporting social distancing.

Here are a few things you should know and consider about accessing military retail stores during the COVID-19 national emergency and any local installation-declared public health emergencies associated with the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Follow local guidance regarding public movement, social distancing, and self-isolation.
  • Stay home if possible, especially if you aren’t feeling well.
  • Know before you go. Many commissaries are limiting access only to the authorized shopper. This supports social distancing and minimization of exposure. Do not bring accompanying visitors with you to commissaries and exchanges at this time.
  • Understand there may be quantity limits put on certain products at commissaries and exchanges. Buy only what you need.
  • Check shopping hours. There may be hours set aside for certain authorized shoppers. Before you make the trip, check to see whether there are local shopping hour restrictions.
  • Use your debit or credit card when you can. Handling cash can pass germs.
  • Keep in mind that as security postures and health protection conditions (HPCON) increase at military installations, access may change and vary between installations.
  • It’s a good idea to check with your local installation about their access restrictions before you make the trip.
  • We’re all in this together.

For information, visit the military retail organization websites and social media sties:




  • Army and Air Force Exchange Service:



  • Coast Guard Exchange:



  • Marine Corps Exchange:




Jane Westbay is a program analyst for DoD with the Morale, Welfare, Recreation, and Resale Policy office under Military Community and Family Policy.

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Published on Mar. 30, 2020

Estimated reading time is 1.7 min.

Views to date: 916


  1. Fred April 12, 2020 at 7:20 am

    I shop at New Jacks in Maryland. My identification card expires in June 2020. I am the surviving spouse of a Vietnam War veteran. Will I still be able to get it renewed?

    • JW April 13, 2020 at 11:18 am

      Fred, DoD is currently working on guidance for how to handle expired or expiring DoD-issued identification cards while RAPIDS sites on installations (the office that issues DoD ID cards) are minimally staffed or closed during the COVID-19 response.

  2. Adriana Simons April 9, 2020 at 4:03 am

    Amber Devon, that is the most selfish thing I have read on here yet. Nobody is trying to steal anything. We have a right to be there just as much as you do. We did our time and some of us were injured doing it and even though I’m a disabled vet, I still put in 12-hour shifts as a nurse. I just hope in the future, your mentality does not creep into the minds of those in charge and create an issue for you to shop on post. You also have the choice to go off post and shop at any of those 20 grocery stores…

    • JW April 9, 2020 at 8:11 am

      Adriana, thank you for your service…both to our country and as a nurse. I imagine you’re driven by compassion, caring, and the general desire to help people feel better. As such, how about we use this forum to spread support and information that is useful to people as we all navigate the unchartered waters of avoiding an invisible threat to our health, social distancing, and toilet paper shortages. What’s your best advice for helping people cope with the current pandemic situation? There’s enough negative in the world. We don’t need to be fighting with each other.

      • Sharon Scipio April 9, 2020 at 8:26 pm

        I too am a disabled vet and as such, I depend on being able to spend my dollars wisely. Our family of 6 is on a fixed income and we can’t afford to shop on the economy. My husband has lost 2 days of his 5 day week of work and as such his income has been reduced. It is a struggle indeed. The commissary was a place where I could go and shop and stretch my already stretch dollars. I understand about the virus, I do, but I also have to feed my family of 6. Our youngest is 12. We shop every week to get the essentials we need, now we can’t even do that. This can be done differently. At Costco, they allow 25 people in at a time as well as putting up barriers for the cashiers. As a disabled veteran, we should not be penalized in this manner. We did our time as well and now is when we should be looked after and that is not happening in this case. I pray that the powers to be, come to there senses and do things better, fair, and just.

        • JW April 10, 2020 at 11:48 am

          Sharon, we are all hoping that the stay at home orders, mask wearing (to prevent the wearer from spreading germs, whether showing symptoms or not), and social distancing will soon have a positive impact on beating the coronavirus and COVID-19 all over the world. We’d all like to get back to normal and back to shopping at our favorite stores, not just the ones we have available to us right now (although we are thankful that there are still options). No matter where you shop these days, we’ve all had to make adjustments based on what’s available. I know this doesn’t help your immediate situation. I can only offer sympathy and encouragement right now. There are some great resources online on how to feed a large family on a tight budget. I’m sure you’re getting really good at getting creative and resourceful. Maybe you could share a tip or two that’s working for your family. Simple grilled cheese and tomato soup (with water, not milk) is still one of my favorites!

  3. Rodney C. Thomson April 3, 2020 at 8:05 am

    I respectfully disagree that a disabled veterans’s spouse is a “visitor”. They are critical to the disabled vet’s ability to shop for much needed groceries and health related needs. To deny them effectively denies the disabled vet in a discriminatory fashion.

  4. Gary "Doc" Rutledge April 2, 2020 at 12:29 pm

    Amber Devon- We are not “stealing” from you active duty personnel. We served our country and now enjoy the privilege of shopping on military installations. Some are retirees and some are disabled veterans. I’m 100% disabled from the Vietnam War and shed blood for our country. Don’t you think we deserve to shop on bases? You’ll be a veteran some day, and I’m sure you’ll shop on base.

    • JW April 2, 2020 at 1:59 pm

      Gary, thank you for your service. You have certainly earned the privilege of shopping at DoD retail facilities. And DoD is very appreciative of your patronage. I know our active force also appreciates the service of all those who came before them. This message is for everyone. Please don’t let the stress and uncertainty and current restrictions (if applicable) promote anger and resentment. We’re all on the same team. We all need to do our part to battle the invisible enemy, which is this horrible virus plaguing the world right now. Stay home if you can stay home. Know before you go. Send the fewest people out of your house to get essentials when needed. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Nobody can defeat this thing alone. It takes all of us doing our part. Spread understanding and empathy, not hate and germs. DoD retail will be here, ready to welcome back all of it’s authorized shoppers when we get back to “normal.”

      [Editor: “JW” is the best. Thanks for the positive message, Jane.]

  5. Kathleen E. McElroy April 2, 2020 at 9:59 am

    I shop at Ft. Meade in Maryland. My identification card expires in May 2020. I am the surviving spouse of a Vietnam War veteran. Will I still be able to get it renewed?

  6. Kathleen E. McElroy April 2, 2020 at 9:55 am

    I am the serving spouse of a Vietnam War veteran. I have an identification and privilege commissary card. My card expires on May 18, 2020. Will I still be able to have it renewed and if so, how do I go about doing it, if I am not allowed on base.

    God Bless all the staff and personnel who are doing their best to keep the commissary/exchanges open.

    Thanks, Kathy McElroy

    • JW April 2, 2020 at 11:46 am

      Kathy, DoD is currently working on guidance for how to handle expired or expiring DoD-issued identification cards while RAPIDS sites on installations (the office that issues DoD ID cards) are minimally staffed or closed during the COVID-19 response.

      • Kathleen E. McElroy April 3, 2020 at 12:15 pm

        Thank you JW for the response. I look forward to hearing more in the coming months.

        Kathy McElroy

  7. Jesse Rookard April 1, 2020 at 7:46 pm

    I don’t believe that retirees should be prohibited from using the commissary during this time. I can handle having to go to the commissary at certain specified times. I’m not sure if the active duty military personnel are aware that they will be in the same boat if they continued their service and retire.
    If retirees are prohibited from using the commissary then I feel that the spouse of an active duty military member should be prohibited from using the Commissary during these times.
    To be denied a given right by a local commander I feel is a violation of the rights that Congress gave to the retirees.
    If a retiree is prohibited from entering a military installation then I think the active-duty members should not be allowed to leave the installation unless official military orders are given.

    • JW April 2, 2020 at 11:42 am

      Jesse, please check the status at the installation you are interested in accessing. The local situation at every installation is different. If an installation commander has declared a public health emergency for his/her installation, they do have the authority to restrict access to the installation and to facilities on the installation to protect the employees that HAVE to continue supporting the mission and the residents of the installation. Every installation may implement restrictions differently based on the unique position of the installation. If access at the installation you are interested in visiging is restricted, please understand that the decison was probably made to reduce exposure to Service members, mission critical personnel, others in the community, and even you. During this time, while the whole world is trying to do its part to flatten the curve (stay home unless you absolutely HAVE to go out), nobody is operating business as usual. Let’s all do our part to limit our outings and limit exposure. The more every citizen of the world adheres to the cirve-flattening guidance, the quicker we can all get back to “normal.” I have been home for 22 days. Have only left my apartment unit door abut 10 times to take out trash, check mail, and pick up deliveries at the front of my building. I’m staying home for the forseeable future and I hope you will join me. When it’s safer and appropriate, your exchanges and commissaries will be there, ready to welcome you back.

  8. Greg Thompson April 1, 2020 at 1:56 pm

    If they are not allowing retiree in, then it should be restricted to active duty soldiers only. No family members unless they provide proof of living on base.

  9. Greg Thompson April 1, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    Call your Congressman if you are denied your rights as a retiree. It is the retiree that is keeping the commissary and post exchanges afloat. If not for the retiree, they would close as they are not self sufficient without the volume buying. Active duty soldiers do not buy that much.

    • JW April 1, 2020 at 2:32 pm

      Greg, under normal circumstances installations do not limit authorized users; however, when an installation declares a public health emergency, the installation commander has the authority to take steps he/she might not otherwise be able to take in order to ensure the safest possible environment for the military community and the mission. These are not normal times. I hope you and your family are staying home as much as possible to limit your exposure and the exposure of those you come in contact with.

  10. Jade Thorne April 1, 2020 at 1:44 am

    Just a little FYI.. AAFES actual stands for Air and Air Force Exchange Service.. your article refers to the Air and Air Force System.

    • JW April 1, 2020 at 8:51 am

      Jade, thanks for pointing that out. It should say “Army and Air Force Exchange Service.” We’ll see if we can get that corrected today.

  11. Jackie Doggett April 1, 2020 at 1:40 am

    Just shout out for all Workers at PX and Commissary you are Heroes you are there doing a great job not knowing if you will come in contact with that one person that is contagious but doesn’t know it
    God bless you and thank you from the bottom of my heart
    Jackie D

    • JW April 1, 2020 at 8:47 am

      Jackie, thank you for that! Those exchange and commissary personnel on the front line are dedicated to taking care of their customers on all the regular days and especially on these not-so-regular days. Let’s all do our part to help keep them healthy so that they can keep serving you. Please follow the guidelines and limit exposure.

  12. Laura Paulino March 31, 2020 at 11:48 pm

    The commissary in jblm Washington state are working well but with more precautions, no toilet paper obviously but they have all the needed food so that’s good. Everyone seems to work as a team in social distancing and waiting in line outside before entering they check your ID while waiting in line, you have to Wash your hands and only letting a limit amount of people at a time. Right when going in the door they ask you if you have been coughing or have respiratory problems and hand you a Clorox wipe.

    • JW April 1, 2020 at 8:42 am

      Laura, thank you for that update from Washington State. So glad to hear that everyone is remaining patient and following the guidelines. We’re all in this together (even if at least 6 feet apart)!

  13. Rodney C. Thomson March 31, 2020 at 8:47 pm

    NAS FT WORTH Commissary refused this Disabled Vets VHIC cardholders spouse entry to the store with me because all VHIC card spouses are considered “visitors” which are all denied at this time. Not sure how blind, wheel chair, or motion limited vets are expected to shop without the spouse who drove them there, shops for needed good, carries the groceries, & prepared meals for the vet? Service animals are allowed but spouses are not. Title 20, Sec 1065 law states we should receive sane priority as retirees. Their wives are allowed. Not sure Congress intended to treat dogs with more respect than spouses. Appears to be a violation of law and decency as the discrimination continues.

    • Rodney C. Thomson March 31, 2020 at 8:49 pm

      Oops…meant to say Title 10, Sec 1065.

      • JW April 1, 2020 at 8:27 am

        Rodney, as mentioned above, many (if not all) commissaries are currently limiting access to only the authorized shopper. The fewer people in public, the better. It helps to reduce exposure to yourself and to the staff who are working hard to keep commissaries, exchanges, and other critical services open. If all of the service providers get sick, there will be no access for anyone. Now is not the time to complain about not being allowed to bring an accompanying visitor with you. These are not “business as usual” times.

        • Rodney C. Thomson April 3, 2020 at 7:52 am

          I respectfully disagree that a disabled veterans’s spouse is a “visitor”. They are critical to the disabled vet’s ability to shop for much needed groceries and health related needs. To deny them effectively denies the disabled vet in a discriminatory fashion.

  14. Annette Clarren March 31, 2020 at 7:59 pm

    My husband is Retired Army and Disabled. Yet we are being denied to get on Edwards Airbase, CA because of COVID19. He also is a Vet.

    • JW April 1, 2020 at 8:14 am

      Annette, as mentioned above, security postures and health protection conditions at installations may prompt installation access restrictions, so it is best to check what restrictions may be in place before you drive to an installation to avoid putting yourself and others at risk of exposure. These are not “business as usual” times. Please do all you can to limit your time away from your home.

  15. Nathan Scott March 31, 2020 at 2:24 pm

    Since Puerto Rico has been dealing with the coronavirus 19 the exchange or Post Exchange has been closed do all except for active-duty personnel I was told the base was not letting anybody on except for essential personnel and active duty like I said in the earlier post they are not there when we need them the most we served our country just like they are serving now I think we deserve better treatment send this other bases have limited the hours for retirees but for some reason Fort Buchanan decides they will close everything

    • JW March 31, 2020 at 5:02 pm

      Nathan, please understand that conditions for each installation and location are unique. Now is the time to support the decisions of the local installation. They have to make decisions to protect their communities and ensure their active force has what it needs to do the job. They also have to do all they can to protect their community from spreading the virus. If you were still active duty, I’m sure you would appreciate the actions being taken by installation leadership. Right now, people should be staying home as much as possible, limiting exposure, flattening the curve. I hope you are doing your part to stay safe and limit your own exposure.

    • Annette Clarren March 31, 2020 at 8:01 pm

      Edwards Airbase is doing the same thing. We cannot get prescriptions filled or get groceries

  16. Chenita Lee March 31, 2020 at 10:18 am

    Our commissary at Ft. Sam Joint BAse San Antonio is doing a great job. It was missing some products prior to limiting visitor access-however, now they are restocking and people are so polite and considerate of one another! The limits on products doesn’t seem to cause any anger! I’m going to continue to support our commissary whether the shelves are full or sparse!!! I appreciate all they do for us!

    • Nathan Scott March 31, 2020 at 2:15 pm

      The commissary at Fort Buchanan is closed to all a except active duty personnel they did this when Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017. When we need the commissary the most they are never there for us

      • JW March 31, 2020 at 4:52 pm

        Nathan, some locations cannot handle the volume of authorized customers and have to make decisions to ensure our active force has access to what they need so that they can do their jobs. I’m sure you understand that the primary mission for commissaries is serving the active force. We hope that things will get back to normal soon and the commissary will be ready to welcome you back when it is time.

      • Amber devon April 1, 2020 at 12:06 am

        Commissary should be closed to all retirees, I’m sick of not being able to provide for my family while I work 12 hour days 6 days a week and watch 100s of you selfish people stock up and take all our supplies. You all pass 20 grocery stores on the way to base to just steal everything we have. You should be ashamed of yourselves. I guess you forgot how hard it was being active.

        • JW April 1, 2020 at 8:34 am

          Amber, the situation at every installation is different. I can assure you that DeCA and the commissary teams are working hard with their supply chain partners to keep the shelves stocked so that you can get what you need. Thank you for your service.

        • donald a severson April 1, 2020 at 8:28 pm

          Amber Devon
          I haven’t forgotten how hard it was being on active duty. I will pray for you and yours to stay strong and protected. You brought up some good points. Keep up the good work and remember we do support our troops and if staying away from a commissary will help you all
          so be it. There will be some who will bitch and complain but there are many who hear you.
          An old Marine who knows what you give up. Did I say old :-)

    • JW March 31, 2020 at 4:47 pm

      Chenita, thank you for the update on Ft. Sam. The commissary teams are working extra hard to stock shelves, clean stores, and promote social distancing. And customers like you are why they do it.

  17. R. Gaytan March 31, 2020 at 9:24 am

    As a retired Servemember and a visit to Ft Benning GA, 03/28/2020 discovered ONLY ID Card holders may enter the post.

    No idea, or nothing on blogs,. Its been more than 2 yrs since visiting Post. I live in Atlanta, GA, about 105 miles away. So my 30yr son, not permitted to enter, but allowed to wait in Visitors Bldg (a 3hr wait) while we shopped PX & commissary .

    • JW March 31, 2020 at 4:43 pm

      R., whenever threat conditions or health protection conditions are elevated at DoD installations, you shoud expect that visitors will be limited or not allowed…especially these days when the general public is being cautioned to stay home and only go out when necessary, limiting exposure to the fewest people necessary. Hopefully these tips will help others prepare. Only wish we had been able to post this before you made your trip. But it sounds like you were able to do your shopping at least.

  18. Connie Rowney March 30, 2020 at 10:58 pm

    Can we still get our get out card renewed. Mine expires in 04/05/2020. Please help

    • JW March 31, 2020 at 9:59 am

      Connie, please be more specific. What card are you trying to get renewed? Your Veteran Health Identification Card from VA? Or do you have a DoD-affiliated, DoD-issued CAC or family member ID card? Or some other type of card?

  19. Hugh March 30, 2020 at 8:33 pm

    All commissaries in Hawaii are functioning well. Shelves are stocked (except for toilet paper, so weird) and there is no shortage of items. A few things have limits but I don’t need 5lbs of chicken for 2 people. Keep up the great work and support.

    • JW March 31, 2020 at 9:55 am

      Hugh, thank you for that update from Hawaii.

  20. Fred Wilson March 30, 2020 at 12:58 pm

    I went to the Memphis NAS Commissary and was impressed by everyone practicing social distance and everyone was polite to each other and no-one seemed angry. The Commissary would only allow 25 people in the store at a time and visitors were not allowed in the store. Only had to wait 30 min outside before gaining entry. The Commissary was well stocked even had toilet paper. Of course the lines were not long lines for checkout. They did enforce quantity limits which everyone seemed to understand.

    • JW March 30, 2020 at 2:33 pm

      Fred, thank you for letting us know what you’re experiencing at NSA Mid South. DeCA and the commissary teams have been working hard!

Comments are closed.

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