By Larry Dandridge
Post Exchanges (PXs) and Base Exchanges (BXs) are the military versions of retail department stores or strip malls with smaller shops and service vendors nearby.
Some exchanges include uniform shops, barbershops, laundry and dry cleaning, gas stations, convenience stores, fast food outlets, and lawn and garden shops. Most importantly, Military Exchanges do not charge sales tax, and they actively seek to hire military spouses through a hiring preference program.
This author likes to visit the Charleston Air Force Base Exchange because it is close to my home, it is a safe place where I can buy the smallest version of the authentic Swiss Army Knife for less than half of anywhere else, and the knives are always in stock.
The Marine Corps Exchange system; The Navy Exchange Service Command, the Coast Guard Exchange system; and Army and Air Force Exchange Service make up the four military exchange systems.
Eligible exchange shoppers can shop online at the Army and Air Force Exchange System at https://www.shopmyexchange.com, the Navy Exchange System at https://www.mynavyexchange.com, the U.S. Marine Corps Exchange System at https://mymcx.com, and the Coast Guard Exchange System at https://shopcgx.com.
PXs and BXs support themselves almost completely through their sales income. Exchange-created profits are used to fund the military Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) programs and to build, maintain, and renovate stores.
Tax-free shopping is authorized at the exchange if you’re in one of these groups:
– Uniformed-service members (active, reserve, or retired); active DOD and Coast Guard appropriated fund and non-appropriated civilian employees in the United States and the U.S. territories and possessions.
– Medal of Honor recipients; Honorably discharged veterans with 100 percent service-connected disability; Department of Defense civilian employees stationed outside the United States.
– Authorized family members; National Guard members not in federal status; and authorized military members of foreign nations.
– All veterans with VA service-connected disability ratings; Purple Heart recipients; veterans who are former prisoners of war; and primary family caregivers of eligible veterans under the VA caregiver program.
– Defense Department and Coast Guard civilian employees with a Common Access Card.
– Appropriated fund and non-appropriated fund civilian employees who work in the U.S., and in U.S. territories and possessions.
Additionally, all honorably discharged veterans can shop online at the exchanges. The Veterans Online Shopping Benefit does not grant on-installation access, unless the veteran falls into another category, such as having a VA service-connected disability rating.
Exchange employees are paid from exchange revenue, not taxpayer dollars. Overseas stores offer many U.S. products that may be difficult to find off base. Commands often impose shopping restrictions to limit the sale of U.S. goods to unauthorized persons.
Stateside and overseas exchanges accept MasterCard, Visa, American Express, and Discover credit cards. Exchanges also offer their own credit plan through the joint-exchange Military STAR Card.
Exchanges offer weekly ads, rebates, restaurant coupons, sales, credit programs, gift cards, post-government employment, careers, shipping, warranties, product recalls and alerts, and more. Exchanges provide wholesome, nutritious meals to eligible students participating in Overseas Department of Defense Schools and a BE FIT FOR LIFE program to mention a few.
The military exchanges in and near the SC Lowcountry include:
– U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Exchange, Building 1283, Geiger Boulevard, MCAS Beaufort, S.C. 29901, phone: 843-228-7769.
– The US Marine Corps Exchange at Building 409, Parris Island, S.C. Phone: 843-228-1538.
– U.S. Coast Guard Exchange, 196 Tradd Street, Charleston, S.C. 29401, Phone: 843-722-8917.
– Charleston Main Navy Exchange (Joint Base Charleston), 1765 Red Bank Road, Building NO 706, Goose Creek, S.C. 29445-6514, Phone: 843-794-7042.
– Charleston Air Force Base Exchange (Joint Base Charleston), 101 Lawson Drive, Building 1990, Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., Phone: 843-552-5000.
– Shaw Air Force Base Exchange, 370 Rhodes Avenue, Building 1403, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. 29152, Phone: 803-666-3050.
– Hunter Army Airfield, 171 Haley Avenue, Savannah, Ga. 31409, Phone: 912-767-1411.
Go online to the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) MWR website and read more about Military Exchanges at https://www.defensemwr.com/partners/military-exchanges.
Another great place to read about military benefits is in the Military Times 2022 Guide to Military Benefits found online at https://bit.ly/3mo12Xo.
The title of the guide is YOUR 2022 GUIDE TO MILITARY BENEFITS, by Karen Jowers and Leo Shane III. The guide has easy to reach and understand sections on Exchanges and Commissaries, Basic Pay, Housing Allowances, Retirement Pay (know your options), Tricare Changes, Help for Spouses and Children, Buying a Home (VA Home Loans), and the GI Bill and Tuition.
Don’t miss out on your Exchange benefits. Let’s go shopping!
Larry Dandridge is a Vietnam War wounded warrior, disabled veteran, ex-Enlisted Infantryman, ex-Warrant Officer Pilot, and retired Lt. Colonel. He is a past Veterans Service Officer, a Patient Adviser at the RHJ VA Hospital, the Fisher House Charleston Good Will Ambassador, and the VP for Veteran Affairs for the local Army Association Chapter. Larry is the author of the award-winning book Blades of Thunder and a contributing free-lance writer with the Island News. Contact him at LDandridge@earthlink.net or 843-276-7164.