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Marines training aboard the Combat Center at Enhanced Mojave Viper check out of the installation’s newest Marine Corps Exchange Jan. 19, 2011, during its first week of operation. Construction began last summer, with the grand opening taking place Jan. 14.

Photo by Cpl. M. C. Nerl

New exchange modernizes Wilson

21 Jan 2011 | Cpl. M. C. Nerl

The Combat Center’s newest Marine Corps Exchange officially opened at Camp Wilson Jan. 14 to help deal with the large numbers of Marines needing supplies during their Enhanced Mojave Viper training.

The new exchange offers Marines and sailors the convienence of a regular store or mini-mart and still maintains the same core brands at Corps values they are used to getting, said Master Sgt. Scott Ferguson, the retail operations chief for Marine Corps Community Services.

“The new exchange is modeled closely to what Marines would see out in town,” said Ferguson, a Denver native. “We’re doing more branding, focusing on name brands, carrying more familiar stuff and making it more convenient for the Marines to get what they need when they shop here.”

Staff Sgt. Victor Bessee, the Camp Wilson exchange manager, gave insight to the advantages the new exchange has over the old one.

“The customer service has improved a lot; it‘s faster and more efficient,” he said. “We’ve adapted to handle a crowd of about 163 occupants, as opposed to our old one of 88.

“The new [exchange] allows us to keep [the customers] moving,” he added. “They can get what they want and then go perform their mission better.”

Bessee added in addition to expanded occupancy, the floorspace grew from approximately 7,000 square feet to around 11,000. Larger areas for staff and receiving of products were also added, easing the flow from trucks to consumers.

The bare necessities remain one of the major selling points in the exchange, he said. Comfort items such as towels, baby wipes, anything for hygiene and especially beef jerkey are hot commodities.

Some veterans of EMV, such as Cpl. Rob Miller, a rifleman with Company G, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., said the new exchange is a welcome sight in Camp Wilson.

“Sorry to say it, but Twentynine Palms is a pretty brutal place to be, especially during training,” said the Wilmington, S.C., native. “Having a nice exchange is good for morale, you could say. The stuff they offer here is great, and who’s going to complain about a building at Camp Wilson with [air conditioning]?”

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms