“You’re Always Welcome Here”: A Taste Of Home With AAFES And Tom Shull

Thomas C. Shull


Tom Shull was raised in an Army family. Between Tom and his spouse, Dorothy, their families have 300 years of service in the Army--Dorothy has nine West Point graduates in her family, including her father and grandfather. Growing up, Tom always felt a sense of “home” hanging out at the AAFES (Army & Air Force Exchange Service) food court on post, or wearing AAFES-provided Little League uniforms. In high school, his father told him and his older brother that they could join the Army or go to West Point. Both Tom and his older brother, John (USMA ’70), chose to attend the Military Academy. Entering West Point in 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War, he found mixed reactions to the war among both the faculty and Cadets. He vividly remembers CPT Buddy Bucha sharing some of his lessons from Vietnam during summer training at Camp Buckner. When he graduated, he commissioned as an Infantry Officer, and served at Fort Carson, Colorado. He was accepted to teach in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership, and attended graduate school at Harvard Business School. Before he could return to West Point, however, he was hand-picked to become a White House Fellow, where he was instrumental in securing the building permit for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Following his fellowship, he taught in the Department of BS&L and returned to Washington D.C., where he served as the Military Assistant to National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane. After leaving the military in 1985, he entered the business world where he soon gained a reputation for turning around failing companies. In 2012, he became the Director and CEO of the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, a position that allows him to remain connected to the Soldiers he loves to serve. As his father remarked when preparing to deploy, “As long as my family is taken care of, I’m all in for the Army.” In this interview, he talks about his father’s military career, providing intimate perspectives on General MacArthur, growing up in a military family, and attending West Point. The hazing he experienced as a Plebe caused him to develop a deep sense of respect for others that he carried throughout his military and business career. He describes working on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial development, and expresses his feelings towards veterans who served in Vietnam and in the military in general. He discusses his work as the Director and CEO of AAFES and his commitment to the military and military families. Finally, he reflects on what his service and West Point mean to him.


name Thomas C. Shull
institution USMA
graduation year 1973
service Infantry
unit C Company 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division; White House Fellow; Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership
specialty Business Turnarounds
service dates 1973 1985