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OESC brings Okinawa enlisted spouses together

  • Published
  • By Michelle Balatero
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
When Okinawa Enlisted Spouses Club (OESC) President Michela McKenna first arrived here on island, there was no enlisted spouses club for her as a Marine Corps spouse. All of that changed earlier this year, when the Kadena Enlisted Spouses Club became the Okinawa Enlisted Spouses Club, uniting all enlisted spouses from every branch of the military on Okinawa.

"There are two aspects [to the club] - there's the social, which is more than just parties and getting together," said Mrs. McKenna. "It's the social networking and social camaraderie. Then there is the charitable part where we're giving back to our community." 

Tucked away on a back road off of Douglas Boulevard is building 859 - the core of the OESC - also known as the Kadena Thrift Store or Airman's Attic. 

"That's where the rubber meets the road. The thrift shop is our bread and butter - it is what we do," said Bea Muranaka, OESC charitable funds treasurer. 

The thrift store makes its money by selling donated items and in turn gives its proceeds to charities around the island. The OESC has given away more than $40,000 since January 2008. In addition to monetary contributions, the OESC also donates surplus items to local orphanages, the Stork's Nest on Camp Lester and to needy people in other countries in the region. All items in good, working condition are accepted except for some restricted items which are listed on the OESC website. 

For junior enlisted families on the island, there may be no better deal than the "Thrift Store Bucks" program, which is open to active duty members, E-1 through E-4, and their spouses, regardless of service. Under the program, The Thrift Store issues $40 in store credit each month to single military members and military members who are married with no kids. Military members with children are eligible for $80 in thrift store bucks each month. The bucks may be used to purchase merchandise in the store. 

According to the staff, eligible personnel from all services just need to bring in their most recent Leave and Earnings Statement (LES), fill out some paperwork and the store bucks can often be issued the same day. 

"We like to encourage some healthy competition among the services. We have young sailors and young Marine families out there who need these items," said Mrs. McKenna. "They don't always take advantage of it." 

While a small staff of six people works diligently to run the Thrift Shop, SOFA-status dependents, 12 and older, are always needed to volunteer around the shop and can earn $1 in "Thrift Store Bucks" for every hour worked. 

The OESC's impact on enlisted spouses has been positive so far. From establishing new friendships to finding job opportunities on base, the OESC has helped members feel more comfortable in their new community. 

Like many new spouses who first arrive to Okinawa, OESC member Jamie Hahn didn't know anyone and wanted to make new connections. 

"It helped me to find my place in the community - where I belong and how I could help out because when I first got here I was like, 'This base is so big, I'll never know anybody'," said Mrs. Hahn. 

Membership is open to all enlisted spouses (male and female) of any military branch on Okinawa. OESC events are held at various locations around the island accommodate members at different bases. Socials are held every third Monday of the month at 6:30 p.m. The October social will be held at the Foster Bowling Alley Oct. 20 at 6:30 p.m. There will be bowling, appetizers, drinks, and door prizes. 

The OESC is also hosting an open house at the Kadena Thrift Store Nov. 20 at 11 a.m. Enlisted spouses and their families from all bases are invited to join this event. There is no obligation to sign up. 

For more information about OESC activities, visit their website at, e-mail, or call 633-0436. Brochures are also available at the Kadena Thrift Shop.