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Staff Sgt. Gwenly Billingsley donates a bag of beef jerky to deployed airmen from Misawa Air Base, Japan, Monday. Customers could buy beef jerky at Misawa's commissary at a discount for troops downrange. The 35th Fighter Wing chapel is putting together care packages for the airmen.

Staff Sgt. Gwenly Billingsley donates a bag of beef jerky to deployed airmen from Misawa Air Base, Japan, Monday. Customers could buy beef jerky at Misawa's commissary at a discount for troops downrange. The 35th Fighter Wing chapel is putting together care packages for the airmen. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — So what’s better than chocolate or other sweets? If you’re a kid, probably nothing. But if you’re a servicemember deployed downrange, the answer is likely beef jerky.

On Monday, Misawa’s commissary and the 35th Fighter Wing chapel held a beef jerky drive to send bags of the chewy dried meat strips to Misawa airmen deployed to the Middle East. Officials from both organizations said beef jerky is No. 1 on troops’ wish list, right above gourmet coffee.

“We’re starting to send packages downrange now, so we figured we’d get in with the commissary,” said Airman 1st Class Nicholas Sample, a chaplain’s assistant augmentee.

Customers who donated were entered into a drawing for a $25 commissary gift certificate, said Trish Reams, Misawa district manager for contractor Webco. The goal was to collect about 400 bags of beef jerky in two days.

Before airmen deploy, the chapel asks them if they’d like to receive a care package, Sample said.

The chapel sends each airman an individual care package containing, besides beef jerky, basic toiletries, chips, candy — “just little things to help boost morale,” Sample said.

The goodies will go in the mail as soon as the chapel obtains airmen’s downrange addresses.

Nearly 700 Misawa airmen currently are deployed, including 70 from the 35th Logistics Readiness Squadron.

Tech. Sgt. Brian Lackman and Staff Sgt. Hilton Nunnery, both from the LRS, bought 70 bags of beef jerky Monday for LRS airmen deployed to Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Beef jerky is the snack of choice in the desert because it doesn’t melt and it provides more sustenance than candy, said Lackman, who returned recently from convoy duty downrange with the Army.

The LRS gift boxes also will include cans of Japanese coffee, sunflower seeds, caffeinated gum and energy drinks.

Care packages are going out every month, Sample said, and people can donate by stopping by the chapel.

Separately, the chapel also is sponsoring a clothing drive for adults and children in Afghanistan.

author picture
Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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