The Turkish military apparently staged a coup on Friday night,deploying military into the streets of Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey’s largest city and capital, respectively.
“Turkish Armed Forces have completely taken over the administration of the country to reinstate constitutional order, human rights and freedoms, the rule of law, and the general security that was damaged,” a statement, published by a group calling itself the “Peace at Home Council” on TRT, Turkey’s state-run broadcaster, read.
But Turkish citizens began flooding the streets in support of President Tayyip Recep Erdogan after he called for citizens to gather and repel the coup.
The military in Turkey has forced out four civilian governments since 1960.
1971: The military stepped in amid economic and socio-political troubles. The chief of the general staff gave a memorandum to the prime minister, who resigned shortly thereafter. The military then had a “caretaker” government installed.
1980: The chief of the general staff announced the coup on the national channel during a time of economic stress. The years following this coup “did bring some stability,”according to Al Jazeera, but the “military also detained hundreds of thousands of people; dozens were executed, while many others were tortured or simply disappeared.” Notably, while this was “the bloodiest military takeover in Turkey’s history,” it was also “highly supported by the public, which viewed military intervention as necessary to restore stability,” according to Dr. Gonul Tol, writing in Foreign Affairs.
1997: The military issued “recommendations” during the National Security Council meeting. Al Jazeera writes that the prime minister agreed to some measures, such as compulsory eight-year education. He resigned soon after. This is often referred to as the “post-modern” coup.
“E-coupe” in 2007: The military posed an ultimatum on its website to warn the Justice and Development Party (AKP) against backing Abdullah Gul for president. He belonged to an Islamist government. “The public and the AKP were outraged, and Gul was elected,” noted Tol in Foreign Affairs. “The military’s attempt to intervene against a popular party dealt a serious blow to its standing in society, and in an early vote held right after the e-coup, the AKP increased its vote share by 13%.”
As for 2016 …
Even though Turkey has seen a few military coups in recent decades, there are some notable differences between the ones in the past and the current one.
“[T]he situation is still very fluid but this is a very atypical coup. In the past, the military acted on calls from the people and staged a coup against an unpopular government. That is not [the] case today. The AKP and Erdogan might be very polarizing and might have alienated an important segment of society, but they still have the backing of almost 50% of the population. And we also have not seen large-scale calls for a military intervention, security collapse, chaos, the factors that played an important role in past coups. Also missing in this coup is the chain of command. In the past, the top brass went on TV right after the coups and explained [to] the public the reasons for the intervention. That has not happened yet. So this coup might not have the backing of the top brass.”
As an endnote, Tol added that “if Erdogan survives this, his hand will be even more strengthened and he will be able to convince people more easily that a presidential system is necessary.”
China’s deployment of the Liaoning, an Admiral Kuznetsov-class carrier, has not seen anything equivalent to the Kuznetsov follies, but it is a note that China’s navy is becoming more capable by the year.
The carrier recently conducted flight deck tests of Chinese PLAN fighters and is cruising through parts of the disputed South China Sea, worrying allies in Japan and Taiwan.
Here are some photos that the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force took of Beijing’s latest show of force.
According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, the Luyang-class destroyers carry the HHQ-9 surface-to-air missile, which is comparable to the SA-N-6 Grumble used on the Kirov-class battlecruisers and the Slava-class cruisers. The Jiangkai II-class frigates carry the HHQ-16 missile, a knockoff of the SA-N-7 – the naval version of the SA-11 Gadfly.
The Liaoning can carry roughly two dozen J-15 Flankers — knock-offs of the Su-33. The carrier also will have a variety of choppers as well, most for anti-submarine warfare or for search-and-rescue missions.
The U.S. Army will soon begin to produce new high-tech, crew-served thermal weapons sights able to automatically adjust range, see through adverse weather, detect targets with a lightweight laser range finder and use a wireless targeting link between weapons and a soldier-worn helmet display, service officials said.
Designed for the M2 .50-cal, M240 machine gun and Mk 19 grenade launcher, the system brings higher-resolution thermal imaging technology and increases field of view, developers explained.
“This is the first time the soldier will have a system which combines a true day and night capability with a laser range finder to adjust for the ballistics of the various ammunition types for the crew served weapons,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.
BAE Systems was recently awarded an Army contract to develop the technology, called Family of Weapons Sights – Crew Served (FWS-CS), in a deal worth up to $384 million.
Using a wireless link, gun-mounted thermal sights send a targeting reticle from the gun to a soldier head-worn display, allowing soldiers to hit targets without needing to physically “look” through the gun-sights themselves in a certain physical position — such as crouching, lying down or standing exposed in a vehicle-mounted gun-turret, the Army official explained.
A wireless helmet mounted display is designed to provide a more natural firing position as well as allow soldiers to remain more protected, a BAE systems statement said. Crew-served weapons, such as the .50-cal machine gun, are often used to “blanket” enemy areas so that troops can maneuver while under attack or deliver suppressive fire.
A wireless link allowing soldiers to remain in a standing position or different configuration than what is otherwise needed to look through the sights naturally lowers the risk of exposing soldiers to enemy fire.
BAE Systems’ FWS-CS system is also engineered to improve targeting speed and precision. It uses a 12-micron sensor technology to provide soldiers with greater clarity and range, developers said.
“FWS-CS also, for the first time, incorporates a high-resolution day camera and laser range finder into the weapon sight, allowing the user to engage targets with a range correct reticle,” John Koltookian, technical director at BAE Systems, told Scout Warrior.
With an initial development order of $10.5 million, work will be performed at the company’s facilities in Hudson, New Hampshire and Austin, Texas.
This crew-served weapons technology is engineered to function alongside a similar Army program called Family of Weapons Sights – Individual (FWS-I); in similar fashion to the FWS-CS, this system uses a wireless link to connect thermal sights on an M4 rifle with an individual soldier’s night-vision goggles display.
A key advantage of this technology is, by design, to allow soldiers to target and attack enemies without having to “shoulder” the weapon and bring it up to their face.
FWS-I is already in Low-Rate-Initial Production and slated to be operational by 2018, service officials said.
Patients tried to stomp on one of the cockroaches on the pharmacy floor. Another video shows a roach crawling on a doorway.
“I know they’ve had infestation problems for years,” Brandon Coleman, a whistleblower and Phoenix employee, told Fox 10 Phoenix in an interview.
“They’re used to it,” said Coleman of the veterans at the facility. “They’re used to substandard care. I think veterans feel lucky just to get an appointment with the secret wait list going on in Phoenix. A roach is no big deal.”
A hospital spokesman from Phoenix told the local news outlet that a recent inspection of the pharmacy did not turn up any cockroaches.
“Whenever insects are reported, our environmental management specialists provide immediate action and ensure the external pest control agencies are notified to come on site for complete remediation activities,” the spokesman said.
The problem of cockroaches is not isolated to Phoenix, but has also presented itself at the Hines VA facility in Chicago, where the VA inspector general determined in 2016 that cockroaches had infested the kitchen and were crawling on the food trays and food carts. According to investigators, hospital leadership knew of the problem and did nothing, an issue Coleman suggested may similarly be at play at Phoenix.
“During our unannounced site visit on May 10, 2016, we found dead cockroaches on glue traps dispersed throughout the facility’s main kitchen,” the inspector general report observed. “We observed conditions favorable to pest infestation.”
Trump’s speech focused largely on the long history of North Korea’s human-rights abuses, though Trump departed from his past rhetoric by offering North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his people “a path to much better future” if the country abandoned its nuclear ambitions.
But returning to typical form, Trump also brought up the US’s victories over ISIS and its nuclear submarines in the region. Trump said misinterpreting the US’s restraint for weakness would be a “fatal miscalculation” by North Korea, and he called on the international community to implement the UN’s strict sanctions on Pyongyang.
North Korean officials, who spoke with CNN about the speech, were not thrilled. “We don’t care about what that mad dog may utter because we’ve already heard enough,” they said.
The officials reaffirmed North Korea’s commitment to building nuclear weapons, bringing up the US’s “nuclear aircraft carriers and strategic bombers” before promising to “counter those threats by bolstering the power of justice in order to take out the root cause of aggression and war.”
North Korean officials have repeatedly said they will not look to negotiate with the US until they complete their country’s nuclear weapons program. At the same time, the US remains intent on preventing North Korea from perfecting a nuclear-equipped missile capable of reaching the US mainland.
On Wednesday, Trump arrived in China to talk to President Xi Jinping, the most powerful Chinese leader since Chairman Mao, about North Korea among other things. China, North Korea’s main ally and trading partner, has been unusually helpful in the US’s recent push to increase sanctions on Pyongyang.
“Avengers: Endgame” was one of the biggest films of 2019, earning more than $1 billion at the box office.
The film, which was a culmination of a decade of Marvel movies, featured time travel, heartbreaking moments, and a major battle sequence. Larger-than-life moments were made possible through the use of computer-generated imagery (also known as CGI) and other special effects. And oftentimes, the most exciting scenes in the movie were filmed in front of a green screen.
In a new video shared by Marvel Entertainment, “Endgame” visual effects supervisor Dan DeLeeuw broke down the film’s major battle sequence with Ryan Penagos.
Keep reading to see how different “Endgame” looks without special effects.
The superheroes returned after stepping through portals.
Mix one U.S. Marine with alcohol and throw in the possibility of a huge foam party and you get an alcohol-related incident on Kadena Air Base.
That’s according to Navy Times, which reported on Tuesday that Air Force officials were investigating how a drunk Marine entered an aircraft hangar on Kadena on May 23 and turned on the fire suppression system at around 1:45 a.m., releasing flame retardant foam close to at least one aircraft.
“The details of the incident are currently under investigation,” 2nd Lt. Erik Anthony told Stars and Stripes in an email. “Kadena’s capabilities and readiness have not suffered.”
The unnamed Marine was arrested shortly after the incident, but details on the Marine’s level of intoxication, his or her unit, or who made the arrest, were not released.
Russia’s 3rd-generation battle tank will feature a new version of explosive reactive armor (ERA) capable of resisting widely used Western anti-tank weapons, a source at a leading Russian heavy machinery company told Nikolai Novichkov of IHS Jane’s 360.
The unnamed source at the Russian Tractor Plants, which develops armor for the country’s tanks, told Jane’s that the T-14 Armata battle tank will feature a radically redesigned ERA system that has “no known world equivalents”.
“The new ERA can resist anti-tank gun shells adopted by NATO countries, including the state-of-the-art APFSDS DM53 and DM63 developed by Rheinmetall [and] anti-tank ground missiles with high-explosive anti-tank warheads,” the source told Jane’s.
An ERA uses two plates of armor that sandwich an inner explosive liner on the outside of a vehicle. When a penetrating projectile hits the outer face plate, the explosive liner detonates. This detonation disrupts the enemy projectile by both shifting the plate armor, lowering the incoming projectile’s velocity, and by changing the impact angle of the projectile.
These shifts means the incoming projectile has to penetrate a larger amount of armor, lowering its overall effectiveness.
In addition to the ERA, the Armata will feature an Afganit active protection complex, a system that uses Doppler radar to detect incoming projectiles like rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank missiles. Once detected, the active defense launches an interceptor rocket that destroys the incoming projectile.
Rossiyskaya Gazeta Online notes that this protection could hypothetically allow the Armata to survive an attack from a US Apache helicopter. But the US Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office takes a more modest view of the tank’s supposed capabilities and concludes that the Afganit system would most likely be capable of defending the tank only from “shaped-charged grenades, antitank missiles, and subcaliber projectiles.”
The Armata is also equipped with counter-mine defenses and a suite of high-resolution video cameras. These cameras would allow the Armata operators to have full 360-degree awareness around the body of the vehicle.
The first deliveries of the T-14 started trials with the Russian military in February and March. According to Interfax, large deliveries of the tank will start in 2017 to 2018.
U.S., NATO ally, and partner paratroopers participated in the 5th Quartermaster Theater Aerial Delivery Company’s Operation Toy Drop Dec. 11-14, 2018.
Operation Toy Drop is an annual multi-national training event. It entails sharing airborne operations, tactics, techniques and procedures, strengthening relationships with local communities and with NATO allies and partners as well as developing interoperability.
“It’s so much fun seeing other nations get in on our training and us to get on their training to see how they operate with these airborne operations, to see how we operate,” said Sgt. Kyle D. Shields, a parachute rigger with the 5th Quartermaster, Theater Aerial Delivery Company, 16th Special Troops Battalion, 16th Sustainment Brigade.
“All of us use different parachute systems across the different militaries, so it’s just trying to get everybody synced up in one parachute system and make sure everybody understands that every system has a risk factor and different ways you have to steer it, fly it and turn it,” Shields said.
Holiday cheer played a major role during Operation Toy Drop.
Capt. Rizzoli Elias, company commander, the 5th Quartermaster Theater Aerial Delivery Company, 16th Special Troops Battalion, 16th Sustainment Brigade, gives a German child a stuffed animal as part of Operation Toy Drop at Alzey, Germany Dec. 13, 2018.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Sinthia Rosario)
Part of this cheer was Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, and elves jumping out of an airplane and then giving toys to children from the Kaiserslautern area. Both U.S. and German children smiled and laughed with excitement as they received presents from members of the 5th Quartermaster, Theater Aerial Delivery Company, who dressed up as Christmas characters during Operation Toy Drop. The toys given to the children were donated by paratroopers participating in this event.
U.S., NATO ally, and partner service members receive Irish jump wings during a wing ceremony exchange hosted by the 5th Quartermaster Theater Aerial Delivery Company, at Rhine Ordnance Barracks, Kaiserslautern, Germany Dec. 14, 2018.
(Photo by taff Sgt. Sinthia Rosario)
“It’s a huge role for us to give back, especially to the local community within Germany, to all these kids and the American community that may not get as many presents as we do on Christmas,” said Sgt. Joshua A. Parkinson, an aerial delivery supervisor with the 5th Quartermaster, Theater Aerial Delivery Company. “For us to be able to do something for them while enjoying it together, then to get to watch their faces at the drop zone as Santa comes around and hands them toys from a bundle that dropped down from the sky … it’s really an indescribable feeling, but it’s something that every single jumper out here, whether they’re American or not, absolutely loves.”
Paratroopers from U.S., NATO ally and partner militaries “high five” children at Alzey Drop Zone during Operation Toy Drop at Alzey, Germany Dec. 13, 2018.
(Photo by taff Sgt. Sinthia Rosario)
Operation Toy Drop concluded with a wing exchange ceremony, in which paratroopers that jumped with a foreign nation, would get a certificate with that country’s wings.
“For us being able to give them American jump wings and from us receiving any number of the number of countries that are here, even the British are giving out jump wings for the first time in years, for me that is absolutely huge,” Parkinson said. “It builds a real sense of these are the people to my left and right that I can count on. We go downrange, we go to a firefight these are the people we’ll be working with and for me that is absolutely everything.”
According to Shields, one of the biggest takeaways is looking forward to future operations with the NATO allies.
“We established a lot of good connections and contacts here while we were doing Operation Toy Drop,” Shields said. “That allows us to communicate with the other armies that are around us so that we can plan additional training exercises and other tactics teaching.”
From a spin on the traditional gift of socks to the ultimate knife and shades, here are six gifts perfect for military, police and fire professionals, as well as folks that love to spend their spare time shooting, hunting and in the great outdoors.
Gerber Short Stack
Gerber Short Stack is perfect for go bags, gun cases AND Christmas stockings.
It’s an innovative, field-expedient weapons maintenance tool- specifically for the M4 – that goes wherever your rifle does.
You need your gun to work, and that means you need to take care of it. This is the perfect stocking stuffer for soldier, cop, or civilian with an AR-15.
Whether you are stuffing a stocking for someone whose daily job requires going into harm’s way, or for someone who has invested in a quality weapon, Gerber Short Stack is a great choice.
Launched about five months ago, the tool is priced at $54.
For tactical folks, New Year’s Eve is a chance to play hard after working hard. After being over served bourbon, shades may be in order the next day.
With a host of GATORZ shades to choose from, RockStars or Wraptors are two particularly solid choices. Virtually indestructible and ultra comfortable, they are ideal for just about everything, from skydiving to riding motorcycles.
How robust? The frames are made from the highest-grade material available – 7075 Billet Aircraft Aluminum – that’s right, aircraft materials! The lenses are made from highly impact-resistant polycarbonate. In addition to strength, they provide 100 percent UV protection and extremely sharp and clear vision.
Made in the US, the Wraptor Tactical Black Frame with Grey Polarized Lens is available for $180.
How about tucking some tactical light in a stocking? The Princeton Tec Tactical Quad Headlamp is available at Rei for $39.95. This tactical headlamp has four LED bulbs with 60-lumen output that operate in high, medium, low and flashing modes –great for signaling.
It is also waterproof to about three feet. The LEDs can throw a wide beam of light about 115 feet. The headlamp can be adjusted to where you want your beam and it fits comfortably over a hat.
Colored interchangeable lenses are key and this one has four. The red lens helps preserve night vision while providing good illumination. For hunting, the green lens can help increase your visibility and safety.
How about lighting up more than a tree this Christmas?
The new ultra compact Titan Plus flashlight by Surefire is a next-level key chain providing light at professional standards. It fits in the palm of your hand and easily in a pocket. About three inches long, it is designed to be discreet and smart.
Powered by readily available AAAs, it also comes with a rechargeable battery that gives it around seven hours use.
It weighs a mere 2 ounces, so it is light enough to carry anytime. It’s available for $99.99 at Surefire flashlights.
Tactical professionals need to maintain their fitness. Socks can be boring, but these are for the serious athlete.
As their name suggests, CXU Compression Socks for Recovery are specifically designed to aid recovery from training hard. They feature super strong compression fabric throughout the sock for enhanced circulation. They’re also designed to help clear blood lactate after crushing it.
For folks making who love to get out hunting, an amazing knife is always a great gift.
Half Face Blades, founded by a veteran who served in Navy SEAL teams, is a company that makes knives and tools. These blades are so coveted, they are nearly impossible to get a hold of. However, you can email the knife maker, put someone you love on the wish list, and get notified when they become available.
Here’s the great news – there’s a two-day Christmas auction for charity that gives you a chance to grab one. Up for grabs are two knives – each is giraffe bone with one orange with black liner and the other black with orange liner. There are carbon fiber pins and spine work with stainless lanyard tube. They both also come with a leather sheath.
Bidding ends at noon on Dec. 23. To place a bid or put a loved on the list to receive a knife email INFO@HALFFACEBLADES.COM.
North Korea broke its silence March 21, 2018, on its surprise peace overtures, including a tentative summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, while denying that U.S. pressure led to the breakthrough.
The Korean Central News Agency, a North Korean propaganda outlet, said the sudden conciliatory moves were an “expression of self-confidence” by a regime that already “has acquired everything it desires,” a possible reference to the buildup of its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals.
The North Korean statement came amid reports that the annual Foal Eagle military exercises in South Korea could be cut short to avoid coinciding with the tentative Trump-Kim summit at the end of May 2018.
South Korean media reported March 21, 2018, that the exercises could run for just a month, rather than the traditional two, in what may be an effort cut a wide berth around the proposed dialogue.
So, everyone thinks they want to retire, right? And, eventually, we all have to, but there’s a bunch of stuff TAPS and all those other “courses” just don’t prepare you for. Life changes in some pretty big ways that have absolutely nothing to do with pay and benefits.
We are required to attend the out-briefing classes: the financial preparedness (yawn) death-by-lectures, differences between all the different Tricare options (pick Prime), how your BAH stops (Wait. What?), and the drop-dead date you have to go get your new, shiny retirement ID.
Which is no joke, because I totally ignored it. Then a month later, I couldn’t get on base because that new little scanner gizmo the gate guards all now use said, *BEEP!* Intruder alert! This lady needs a retired ID. She’s being an active duty poser.”
I was rebuffed. Shocked. Pissed off just a bit. But, then I got my stupid retired ID like they told us to. (Not without rolling my eyes, though.)
Here are the main things I wish they had told me:
1. For the first year, there was a part of my husband that just wanted to go back on active duty
Maybe it was the familiarity, or the “dudes,” or the routine lunches at McAlister’s Sandwich Shop, but he honestly missed the Navy. It wasn’t until we got over the first year that who he is as a retired Navy pilot began to form and shape who he is now. It was hard to watch him navigate his life without the true north being the US Navy. (Note: that goes away eventually, by the way. Then, you’ll wonder why the hell you didn’t retire sooner.)
2. While I missed him when he was deployed, him being around all the time has its downsides
While I, honestly and for true, really, really did miss him when he was deployed, I had also gotten used to not having him around all the time. So, the first month of him being retired was a huge adjustment. I actually had to cook every morning, noon and night. And, I had to adjust to him just being there all the time. All. The. Time. “What’s for lunch?” (Me: looking around thinking ‘who is this guy wanting food in the middle of the day?’) Trust me. We were all safer removing all weapons and dulling down any sharp objects that first month or six months or year.
3. It might sound weird, but I miss the smell of the military
I miss the smell of the Navy. I know, it’s weird. But, it’s also true. Smell is the strongest sensory trigger for memory. There was something in the clothes (JP5?), or in the air, (also JP5) or something (it’s totally JP5) … whatever it was, the allure of Au De Navy was and is sorely missed. Our house just smells so civilian now.
4. At the moment your husband retires, your former shipmates will consider you struck stupid on military topics
All your knowledge and infinite wisdom somehow evaporated, or was some way captured in the picture they used for that retired ID I mentioned above. Whatever the phenomenon, it’s a real thing. Within the first 48 hours, I heard, “How would you know? Your husband is REEE-TIIIIRREEDD” at least twice.
5. He’s going to grow a beard. So, suck it up and deal
Now, me personally, I love beards. It was not some sort of hardship on me. Quite the contrary. But, give it a rest and let him do it. Don’t bitch. Just let him grow the damn beard and be grateful he isn’t a man-baby with no whiskers. He’ll have to shave it (probably) eventually, but this is his last stand. Let him have this moment.
When asked about the current level of savings for commissary shoppers in an era of sweeping reforms, the interim director of Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), retired Navy Rear Adm. Robert Bianchi, referred to results of a price comparison survey conducted in 2016 and released in late January 2017.
It showed average savings at commissaries “globally” were 23.7 percent compared to prices at commercial grocery stores. More specifically, patron savings averaged 20.2 percent at stateside commissaries and 44.2 percent overseas.
The same survey also showed average patron savings varied widely across U.S. regions, from a high of 32.6 percent in Alaska and Hawaii to a low near 18 percent for commissary shoppers across the South Central and Mountain states.
Bianchi and staff said it is the regional cost-saving targets that DeCA monitors monthly and, in finer detail, quarterly, to ensure that steps to transform commissaries into more business-like stores are not diluting patron savings.
Price savings by region are being tracked on “a monthly basis via our syndicated data and [on] a quarterly basis via manual shops [of local stores] and using syndicated data,” a DeCA spokesman explained.
The larger price comparison survey released a year ago established a new method for calculating savings that included a proportion of prices for private label or store brands. This irked patron advocacy groups because, at the time, commissaries didn’t sell their own private label goods. The concern was that the timing served to dampen the baseline savings targets set, which DeCA, by law, must sustain forever more.
This occurred long before Bianchi become interim DeCA director in November 2017 to lead commissary transformation while also serving as chief executive of the Navy Exchange Service. Bianchi said he believes the baseline for savings, which use regional price comparisons and private labels, more accurately reflects the real value of the benefit. The previous method, which led to claims that patrons saved more than 30 percent, compared commissary prices against average commercial prices for brand goods only nationwide, ignoring popular private labels.
Steps transforming commissaries include: replacing the traditional cost-plus-a-surcharge pricing with variable pricing based on regional markets; offering DeCA-brand or private label goods as low-priced alternatives to name brands; cutting the assortment of national brands on shelves and negotiating more competitive pricing for surviving brands with brokers and manufacturers.
Patron savings are real and substantial, Bianchi said. “But messaging that, connecting that for the customer, becomes important,” and variable pricing is key.
Commissary savings can get distorted, Bianchi said, when, for example, a shopper walks into a commercial supermarket and the first item seen are bananas selling for 39 cents a pound versus 52 cents seen at the commissary.
“Even though we may be saving them lots of dollars on chicken or other commodities, they get that initial impression and say ‘Hum, am I really saving money or not?’ We know they are. So, part of what I have our team looking at are image items. As we introduce variable pricing, it will give us the capability to compete with those other retailers and manage pricing in the market.”
Patrons need to be made more aware of average savings, Bianchi said.
“So, the part I have to do is message that so they aren’t dissuaded when they see a loss leader item” in a commercial market and think their commissary benefit has lost value. “The value proposition has got to be real and clear to them.”
Readers of last week’s column, which described a sharp decline in commissary sales, reacted with emails. Many blamed falling sales on a perceived narrowing of savings. Other criticized empty shelves and popular items out of stock.
Manufacturers and brokers shared recent scanned sales data from commissaries that, they contend, show variable pricing and private labeling accelerating the sales drop as patrons discover favored brand names are gone.
One industry analysis noted how Duracell batteries were removed from commissaries last year. While sales data show Energizer battery sales climbing, as would be expected, battery sales overall in the commissaries have fallen.
Bianchi said it’s premature to be sounding alarms over variable pricing or the introduction of DeCA brands Home Base, Top Care, and Freedom’s Choice.
Every commissary now has some variably priced items and “initial data suggest customers are responding positively,” Bianchi said. “In fact, we are beginning to get more competitive on the items that are most relevant to our patrons, which we expect will only help our sales performance.
“However, we still have a relatively small portion of the total assortment variably priced.” In mid-January 2018 that total was only 7000 of 38,000 stocked items.
“It is, therefore, too early to draw conclusions about how this will impact commissary-wide sales trends. Initial item-level sales data and customer input make us confident this is the right approach.”
Initial private label results on bottled water, cheese, health care products, paper towels and more also are encouraging, said Bianchi. The goal is to sell 3000 to 4000 items with commissary labels.
“We continue to see sales growth and penetration levels increase, and our customers regularly tell us they are happy to have these low-cost, high-quality alternatives on the shelf. None of the items introduced to date give us any concern for the acceptance of our brands, and we will continue to roll out these products aggressively given the very positive response from patrons.”
In fact, he added, many product categories with private labels “have seen an uptick in sales relative” not seen in product categories without private labels.
Bianchi said he came to DeCA with a lot of retail experience and a fresh set of eyes. He found shortfalls in customer service, expense control and sales planning, all critical for shifting to a profit and loss environment.
“You just have a different perspective” when store expenses are covered by appropriated dollars, he said.
He found commissary shoppers uncomfortable with having baggers handle groceries for tips, Bianchi said, which might explain the popularity of self-checkout.
“How many people carry cash nowadays,” he said. “And if you go to an ATM machine you’re only getting 20s. So, we’re kind of looking at” the bagger issue.
Bianchi said he spent his first months at DeCA focused on patrons, employees and having store partner with commands and local communities. He will turn soon to repairing relationships with brokers and manufacturers who might have felt bulldozed by all the recent changes at commissaries tied to profit and loss.
“Quite honestly, as these initiatives were rolled out, there was probably a lack of transparency, which created some concern and doubt on industry’s part [and] some bad feelings,” said Bianchi. “Some folks are still remaining critical, which I think is a carryover from that.”
Industry reps who also dealt with base exchanges, which have long generated profits, likely were less startled by mindset shift at DeCA, he said.
“The reality is the business model does have to change as we move to a profit and loss environment. We want to create a win-win situation. But I will tell you, from walking floors at commissaries, we [need] an assortment rationalization,” meaning more cuts to the number of brand goods. “So, there may be winners and losers but that’s not any different than the private sector goes through every day.”