Army Command Sgt. Maj. John M. Gaines Jr. is closing the loop on a military career that had roots in a commissary and finishes as the Defense Commissary Agency's senior enlisted advisor.
Gaines is preparing to retire from the Army on Aug. 31. In the meantime, Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. Stuart M. Allison, former superintendent for the 509th Mission Support Group at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., is the new senior advisor to DeCA Director and CEO Joseph H. Jeu effective July 1.
"Command Sgt. Maj. Gaines knows from first-hand experience what it's like to work in a commissary," said Jeu, referring to Gaines' brief store career stocking shelves as a young Army private at Fort Campbell, Ky.
"And, as our senior enlisted advisor, he understood what this benefit means for our military and their families," Jeu added. "Throughout his tenure with DeCA, Gaines fought hard to ensure our patrons knew it, too."
Serving as the agency's senior enlisted advisor to the director since Feb. 1, 2011, Gaines was DeCA's uniformed advocate, representing the questions and concerns of the commissary's enlisted customers and helping the agency raise awareness of the benefit and its savings.
In recognition of his service, Jeu presented Gaines with the Defense Superior Service Medal during his retirement ceremony at Fort Lee on July 18.
From their travels across the DeCA landscape, Gaines and Jeu had a unique view of the commissary benefit, whether it's meeting the thousands of commissary employees who deliver it or interacting with many of the service members and their families who receive it.
"One aspect of this benefit that often gets overlooked is that commissaries provide a safe, secure and clean shopping area for family members while their spouses are deployed somewhere down range - that is huge for our military," Gaines said.
"DeCA people understand what it means to take care of a service member and their family, whether they're serving at places such as Naval Station Norfolk [Va.] or Twentynine Palms [Calif.] or Ramstein Air Base [Germany] or Yongsan [South Korea]," he added. "We have an amazing workforce: the cashiers, who are the face of our commissaries, the folks in the different store departments, our people behind the scenes doing the heavy lifting in the warehouses and our people in the headquarters."
Gaines' military career began more than 33 years ago when he joined as a subsistence supply specialist in 1981. A career logistician, his assignments have taken him to Fort Dix, N.J.; Fort Campbell, Ky.; Egypt; Germany; Fort Polk, La.; Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; Fort Drum, N.Y.; Fort Bliss, Texas; and Schinnen, the Netherlands. In one particular assignment, Gaines served as the Benelux Garrison sergeant major in Belgium, supporting the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe.
In 2006, he was selected as the command sergeant major at IMCOM's Europe Region. IMCOM's basic mission is similar to that of a city manager for Army installations, overseeing services, resources and facilities.
Two years later, Gaines moved to the Pentagon after being chosen to serve as IMCOM's second command sergeant major. During that assignment, he also concurrently served as the senior enlisted advisor to the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management.
Gaines has been deployed to Haiti for Operation Uphold Democracy in 1994, to Bosnia for Operation Joint Endeavor as a member of the implementation force in 1996, and to Kuwait as a task force sergeant major supporting operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom in 2010.
He has a bachelor's degree in multidisciplinary studies through an online program from Grantham University. His military education includes the First Sergeant Course, the Garrison Command Sergeant Major Course and the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy.
His awards and decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit (two awards), the Meritorious Service Medal (four awards) and the Army Commendation Medal (seven awards).
As Gaines prepares to exit the military for civilian life in Northern Virginia, he said he's confident that DeCA's senior enlisted advisor positions are in good hands because "both men are very passionate and understand the importance of the commissary benefit." Allison is already on board as his replacement, and Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Stephen M.
Kazmirski, former superintendent for the 87th Mission Support Group at Joint Base McGuire-Dix, N.J., is inbound as the next Europe Area senior enlisted advisor, replacing Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Clayton M. Lowry, who rotated to F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.
"Being with commissaries was a wonderful experience, and I want to thank the entire DeCA team for their dedication and service to our patrons," Gaines said.
"I also want to give a huge shout out to Mr. Jeu," he added. "He's truly the right guy at the right time in the history of DeCA. His vision and guidance have positioned this agency well as it navigates through this current budget environment. He leads with so much dignity and respect for others. You couldn't ask for a better 'battle buddy.' "