AAFES will be closing a number of concessions throughout Afghanistan according to this news report.
More than 50 AAFES concessions would close under the order, including popular fast-food outlets like Burger King, Popeyes and Taco Bell, as well as jewelry stores, souvenir stores and new car sales outlets.
Interestingly enough, I recently commented on Simon’s blog on a related issue. When I was there none of those outlets were in Bagram and I have to admit the idea of them don’t sit well with me but I wouldn’t want to be one of those guys who insists that soldiers be inconvenienced just for the sake of inconvenience. The real factor should be if they have a negative impact upon performance. Well, apparently the command is worried that they do:
“MWR should never be the distracter that changes the focus of the mission.”
According to McChrystal’s order, priority command support will be limited to fitness centers, MWR Internet services, the Stars and Stripes newspaper, unit-operated AAFES stores, barber and beauty shops, recreation equipment (books, movies, board games and outdoor recreation gear), USO packages (USO2Go and USO in a Box), and education services, all of which will continue.
That is essentially what we had circa 2003/2004 and really was fine. I have only good things to say about the mess hall we had so when I heard that fast food crap was being installed it seemed totally unnecessary. Besides, if you’re really jonesing for something other than that you could always order food on-line and prep your own dinner.
I will say this however. In 2003/04 AAFES did a wonderful job of making sure soldiers had creature comforts (almost always snacks) available and made them available at a good cost. They didn’t come anywhere close to recovering their cost and soldiers (from all countries) transiting through Bagram were able to stock up on pogey bait before moving out.
Of course stocking the PX with pork rinds (stocked by local Afghan workers) seemed a culturally clumsy (what’s wrong with chips and nachos?), especially given how we (well, the U.S. military only) had a ban on ‘pornography’ because it would offend ‘local sensibilities’. But that’s another story…