WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB — A U.S. Air Force report has identified more than one reserved parking space for general officers is likely too many.
The new study found the odds of two generals showing up to the same commissary on the same base on the same hour of the same day are roughly 1 in 117,000, and nearly reach state lottery jackpot odds. The same report showed the odds of three or four general officers arriving to shop together at a commissary as even greater.
Donna Michaels, the lead researcher and senior fellow at ResearchMatters.com, said the figures were a reminder of just how few general officers there actually are in the military. Michaels said the study also raised the question of how many times has one actually seen a general buying groceries?
Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) leadership expressed shock at the findings and some disbelief that parking spaces long reserved for the military's most senior officers and enlisted — and apparently also the most aggressive base shoppers — are underused and unnecessary.
"We are constantly working to serve our military members, but also understand that senior military members must be shown an appropriate level of respect," Randolph Jones, a senior AAFES facilities coordinator, told reporters. "Our commitment to reserve commissary and exchange parking spaces for our nation's military leaders is an ongoing one, and we aren't going to give up on these general officers and most senior enlisted."
However, junior and mid-level Air Force enlisted refuse to cooperate. One enlisted service member, Senior Airman Blake White, says when he's in a rush, he does what he has to do.
"Most of the time I drive past the spot and I'm like 'Fuck, I thought that shit was open.' And then I just move on. But sometimes I'm like, 'Fuck it dude, I gotta get this Snapple before I'm late for work.' And then I just park there."
Technical Sergeant Marcus Williams claims he just makes up a story in his head every time he does it.
"I'll be like, 'Okay, what am I going to say if some douchebag ask me why I parked here?' And I'll think, 'Man, I'll just tell the guy that I'm running an errand for the general, or my dad is a retired general." But honestly, most of the time I just park in the E9 spot and plan to tell anyone that ask that I thought it said E6, like I'm dyslexic or something."
While many airmen choose to play dumb, a small group of airmen are trying to take action now that the study is published.
Master Sergeants Josh Sullivan and Niña Piñero say the report provides damning evidence that three to five reserved parking spaces is too many. Together they've formed a small group of senior enlisted airmen that have sought the opinion of the very officers and enlisted for which the spaces are reserved.
"We want to find these generals," Piñero explains. "We want to ask them how often they go out shopping in pairs, how often they drive themselves on base, and most important, do they even shop at the commissary?"
"Her [Piñero] questions may be blunt," says Sullivan. "But we believe they don't even shop on base. So what's the point of blocking off the best spots for them?"
Sullivan's point seems to be coincide with several additional (albeit unrelated) studies that show affluent and educated people typically shop at hybrid grocery store/hangouts such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, and not grocery store/discount stores, such as Aldi Foods and the Piggly Wiggly, both comparable to a base commissary. Should Sullivan and Piñero succeed in convincing senior officials there's a link from the study to the base commissary, they may just change the long-standing practice.
However, for the time-being, airmen like Technical Sergeant Williams will continue to buck the system.
"I don't really care where they shop. When I gotta get them Tostitos and bounce, I'm jacking the general's spot! He better get some of that Trader Joe's Tostitos."