Commissary meat worker a cut above

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
One might not expect jokes at the Fairchild Commissary meat aisle.

But if Ken Stephens has his way, no customer leaves his section without a smile on their face. After all, he's the one with the meat cleaver.

"If somebody comes in and I can get a smile out of them -- that becomes the best part of my day," Stephens said. "I like to joke and meet new people. It's fun for me and when they leave my section with a smile; I get a huge sense of accomplishment -- like my work here is done."

Stephens has been a meat cutter worker here for nearly a year. In the month of August, he was named the commissary employee of the quarter.

"Ken strives a little harder and shows he's more than willing to exceed our expectations," said Bob Brothers, the Fairchild commissary meat supervisor. "He's always excelling -- going above and beyond."

For example, Stephens' market research and suggestions to commissary leadership led to the vast selection of barbeque sauce they stock. He's also responsible for the top ground sirloin his customers enjoy. But Stephens doesn't just vie for particular products, he also offers a plethora of recipes for people planning their dinner.

"Every time we visit Fairchild, my wife and I make sure we chat with Ken and get some steaks at his recommendations," said Randall Scott, a retired Navy chief petty officer, who lives in Seattle.

When Scott and his wife, Helen, escape the big city rush to Fairchild, they make it a point to visit Stephens. Scott said Stephens is always very helpful as he suggests cooking techniques for their steak, but also where they can find the right ingredients in the store.

"I need to know where everything is so I can help customers find what they're looking for quickly," Stephens explained. "I'll give them the right answer or find the answer for them if I don't know it."

The nine-year Air Force veteran, who served as a medical supply specialist, is no stranger to the military lifestyle. The former buck sergeant's grandfather worked as an aircraft welder during World War II and his father served in the Marines. Stephens and his wife both served in the Air Force before they had kids. With more to do at home, the couple realized the necessity for one of them to leave the service. He separated from the Air Force so his wife could continue her career in security forces.

With deployments, short overseas tours and other special duties, however, married life in the military can be tough, he said.

"We've been married for 29 years but only together for 16," Stephens said as he explained how they are not only married to each other, but also to the military.

The continued distance hasn't tempered their love for one another, the father of three said.

From working as a 911 call operator at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo., to warehouse and security jobs at what is now Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., Stephens has found something to do wherever the Air Force led his family. But it wasn't until they were stationed at RAF Croughton, England, that he found something he really enjoyed.

"I would recommend working for the Defense Commissary Agency to any spouse because every base will have a commissary," he said. "I can go anywhere in the world with this job."

When not hacking up beef and pork with his knife, he also likes shooting things. With his camera.

Photography, he said, "keeps him sane." It also gives him something to keep him busy in his free time.

Stephens' photography has been featured in the DeCA Vision magazine three different times. Most significantly, for a story about extreme couponers at Fairchild, his work was featured on the front cover of the magazine distributed to the 247 commissaries around the world.

Stephens said he likes both photography and meat cutting because they challenge him; they both require an ere of exactness as he is always striving for perfection in both his hobbies and his work.

"I like to make sure whatever I do is done right," he said.