Marines Open the First Exchange in Iraq

12 Apr 2003 | 1FSSG PAO 1st Marine Logistics Group

In Southern Iraq, a group of highly motivated and dedicated exchange Marines of 1st Force Service Support Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, have been working hard to provide a bit of "USA" in the form of a tactical field exchange.

Gunnery Sgt. Mike Rittgarn, retail operations chief of Viper PX, Staff Sgt. Victor Bessee, exchange manager at Viper PX and some dedicated SeaBees of Task Force Charlie, I MEF Engineer Group, have been working round the clock to prepare the TFE. They pulled together a general-purpose tent with beverage coolers, lighting kits, a generator and shelving for the grand opening that took place April 7 at 10 a.m.

The Viper PX actually opened April 6 for a couple hours to work out the bugs and was a welcomed site to a lot of I MEF personnel.

"Our job is to provide customer service and PX support for all service members in theater," said Bessee.

Rittgarn stated, "Our product mix beats the local 7-11 hands down. We've got everything a Marine, sailor, soldier and airman would need."

Lt. Col. Tony Poletti, deputy of services for 1st FSSG, stated that services are already in the process of moving merchandise and exchange personnel to the next logistical support area to provide direct support to I MEF and 1st Marine Division forces. The Army-Air Force Exchange Services is the supplier of the merchandise.

"AAFES' motto 'We Go Where You Go' brings new meaning in support of the Marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen at LSA Viper and they have worked 24/7 to ship products from the United States to Camp Coyote where the 1st FSSG PX Marines reconfigure and ship to LSA Viper for sales," said Poletti.

"We view the exchange function as a real force multiplier that increases morale ten-fold!" added Chief Warrant Officer Carlos "PX Wardog" Holt, I MEF exchange officer in charge.

"In addition, we will have a tactical field post office at LSA Viper with another going in at our next LSA," Poletti quickly added.

Both locations will have stamps and money orders for sale as the capability of mailing packages. This will not only improve the ability to move mail but also provide a full postal services and support.

The ribbon cutting ceremony included Col. Bruce Bisset, commanding officer of Combat Service Support Group 15, Lt. Col. Thomas Collins, commanding officer of Combat Service Support Battalion 18, Sergeant Major Eduardo Leardo, sergeant major of CSSB-18, Rittgarn, Bessee, Holt and Poletti.

First FSSG exchange personnel are already operating tactical field exchanges at Camp Commando, Ali Al Salem Air Base, Camp Tarawa and Camp Iwo Jima.

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1st Marine Logistics Group