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Feature - Holiday cheer by the dozen

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Nestor Cruz
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
How do you say "thank you for your service" and "Happy Holidays" at the same time?
Spouses from every group and squadron at Kadena Air Base came together recently and found the answer: 19,000 cookies. 

More than baked mounds of flour and sugar, the cookies delivered to 1,400 dormitory residents here this week became symbols of gratitude and fellowship. 

"When you're a single Airman in the dorm, sometimes it seems like no one cares about the hard work young Airmen put forth everyday," said Senior Airman Brittinie
Alvarez, 18th Security Forces Squadron electronic security systems specialist. "So little things like cookies from the spouses clubs are always a welcome surprise and a reminder that someone cares." 

The thoughtful gesture not only shows care, but it's an unofficial custom. 

"It's a tradition in the Air Force for families to bake for our Airmen in the dorms," said Marianne Williams, spouse of Brig. Gen. Brett Williams, 18th Wing commander. "I asked other spouses if we could get a cookie project going and that's where Mrs. Henkel came in." 

Debbie Henkel, spouse of Col. Mark Henkel, 18th Operations Group commander, said when she was at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, the spouses there used a services dining facility kitchen to bake cookies for Airmen. This was a concept different from what Mrs. Williams was used to. 

"At the bases I've been to, people would typically drop off cookie donations at a central location such as the officer's club," said Mrs. Williams. "We would have spouses at the central location bagging cookies. The idea Mrs. Henkel brought to us from Elmendorf was a very novel concept which quickly caught tremendous momentum." 

Mrs. Henkel said this project made more sense than having families bake at home.
"It only takes a few minutes to make cookie dough, but when you're baking two dozen cookies at a time, it takes forever to make enough for everybody," said Mrs. Henkel. 

Mrs. Williams worked with Col. Marydarlene Morgan, 18th Services commander, to gain access to one of the Services kitchens for the project. 

"The Services central kitchen came to mind because it's less busy than the dining facility," said Mrs. Williams. 

Working out of the central kitchen enabled Kadena spouses to produce more than 19,000 cookies in just two weeks - more than 1,000 cookies a day. 

Mrs. Williams said spouses from just about every base unit, visiting mothers, teachers and friends as well as members of the Chatan Lion's Club and students from Yomitan High School helped with the project. 

"We had some squadrons making upwards of 200 cookies in just two hours," Mrs. Henkel said. "We would never have produced 19,000 cookies if we had baked at home."
Kadena's spouses produced a staggering array of cookies including snowballs, pumpkin, gingerbread, snickerdoodles, double-Dutch chocolate and Mrs.
Henkel's own specialty, cranberry and white chocolate. 

"The variety we had was incredible," said Mrs. Henkel. 

The base commissary donated plastic containers for packaging the cookies. Jerry Broccoli, Army and Air Force Exchange Service Area Manager for Okinawa and Japan, donated bags on behalf of AAFES. 

"I want to thank all the base agencies for their support, especially 18th SVS, AAFES and the Defense Commissary Agency," said Mrs. Williams. "Most of all, I want to thank Mrs. Henkel for her leadership and vision and all the spouses and friends who came together to make this happen for our Airmen. 

"This is what the Air Force is all about," Mrs. Williams added. "It's not just about cookies, but about sharing traditions picked up from our experience and using that to take care of our hard-working Airmen."