Shoppers at the Andersen Air Force Base commissary on Guam on Dec. 5, 2023, complained that items are often out of stock.

Shoppers at the Andersen Air Force Base commissary on Guam on Dec. 5, 2023, complained that items are often out of stock. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam – The Defense Commissary Agency has turned to commercial airlifts to keep shelves stocked during the holidays in its stores in America’s westernmost territory.

Shoppers quizzed by Stars and Stripes outside the Andersen commissary Dec. 5 complained that the grocery store is often out of popular items.

Air Force spouse Corrie Untalan, for example, said products are not replaced on shelves in a timely manner.

“I suppose the holdup is shipping,” she said, noting that butane cooking-gas canisters, dairy products and other food items are often unavailable at the store.

Supply problems are the latest challenge for military shoppers on the island territory. In November, DeCA said typhoon damage to a warehouse on Guam was partly to blame for insect infestations at the military commissaries on the island.

The U.S. Army Public Health Command — Pacific identified three species of beetles found in packages of dried foods like pasta, flour, rice, oatmeal and dog food. Two commissaries operate on Guam, one each at Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Base Guam.

DeCA recognizes supply challenges impacting its stores on Guam, Matthew Whittaker, the agency’s Pacific area director, said in a Dec. 12 statement.

“To help overcome these issues, we are doing everything at our disposal, to include programming commercial airlifts that coincide with our ongoing sealift deliveries, to ensure our service members and their families in Guam have the products they need, not just during the holidays, but to sustain our stores indefinitely,” he said by email.

Stock rates at the Naval Base Guam and Andersen commissaries are 84% and 90%, respectively, he said.

“DeCA has the ability to provide six airlifts over the next six weeks, if needed, to set the stores for the winter holidays and build irreversible momentum,” Whittaker said. “We also have scheduled normal sea shipment of products to coincide with the completion of any needed airlifts.”

DeCA is aggressively working with suppliers in an all-out effort to ensure that the supply chain to Guam is getting as much of the available product as possible, he said.

“Our goal is to provide a consistent, long-term supply solution for Guam that is enduring by reaching and sustaining in-stock rates of 96-98% in both Orote (Naval Base Guam) and Andersen commissaries,” he said. “We are committed to providing a full commissary benefit to our military community stationed on Guam. And we stand by that commitment.”

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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