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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Santa Claus isn’t the only one who has to work Christmas Eve.

As children nestle all snug in their beds Dec. 24, about 250 Misawa shift workers — from security forces officers at the gates to sewage and steam plant operators — will be burning the midnight oil.

The Security Hill Senior Enlisted Council will see to it, however, that they don’t go hungry.

A private organization composed of the hill’s master, senior master and chief master sergeants, the group will prepare and deliver holiday feasts in to-go boxes to all shift workers as part of its fifth annual Christmas Eve feed.

“Working shift is a difficult job,” said Chief Master Sgt. Richard Tabler, the event’s lead organizer and 373rd Support Squadron superintendent. “We appreciate the fact that they’re standing watch. They’re there to keep everyone safe. We’re just trying to show our appreciation and gratitude for what they do.”

The council determines who’s working and where on Christmas Eve through unit first sergeants and chief petty officers, Tabler said.

“We sent out menus so individuals can fill out what they want,” he said. The choices would fatten even Santa Claus. They include turkey and ham, mashed potatoes and stuffing with gravy, yams, corn, green beans, rolls and an assortment of cookies and desserts — the sweet stuff courtesy of the hill’s two Single Unaccompanied Dependents and Spouses organizations.

In fact, Tabler said, the Christmas Eve feed is a team effort involving Air Force, Navy and Army personnel and civilians working for Misawa Security Operations Center.

“We try to enlist as many organizations up here as we can so everyone feels that they’re involved,” he said.

Senior leaders on the hill donate the turkeys and hams. And 5-6 ENCORE, a private organization of E-5s and E-6s, has signed on to help deliver the meals. Tabler estimates the council spends from $600 to $700 to purchase the rest of the food and supplies.

Food preparation takes place in Building 539, the 373rd Intelligence Group’s dormitory. To-go boxes are divvied up and sent out the door between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., Tabler said. About a dozen people will be delivering meals — some having to do prior research to find, for instance, the base steam or sewage plant, which are staffed round the clock.

“If they’re in a shack by the Apple Gate, we’ll be driving out that way,” Tabler said.

A separate food line will be set up on the hill for about 50 shift workers there, he said.

Tabler said there’s still time to put in an order.

“If you’re working shift and you haven’t been contacted yet, contact your first sergeant or chief petty officer … they can get you a menu,” he said Tuesday. “I figure I’ll be getting menus in for the rest of the week.”

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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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