Okinawa troops flipping for flapjacks at free breakfast
Stars and Stripes March 28, 2006
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, Okinawa — Friday mornings are a bit hectic at the United Service Organizations here.
It’s understandable. Few things can compare to a free hot pancake breakfast for hungry Marines where even second helpings are encouraged.
Every Friday morning the USO here and on Camp Schwab host “Flapjack Friday” — free pancakes, sausages and juice for all. The Camp Hansen USO will kick off its daily free breakfast sometime in April, according to MCAS Futenma USO center manager Gardner Williams.
“We’re always looking for ways to support the troops,” Williams said. “I’m a retired Marine who was stationed here and I know the Marines [do physical training] early Friday mornings, and they’re looking for a good breakfast afterwards.”
The flapjack feeds run from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Futenma, and 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Schwab.
The first week the meal was held, Williams said they served just over 70 customers. That number more than doubled after word got out and they served 160 the next Friday. The third Friday, March 17, Williams said deployments dipped the number into the 90s, but last Friday the USO team had filled more than 70 stomachs in the first 90 minutes.
The center is now averaging one case of pancake batter — almost 900 pancakes — and 20 pounds of sausage each Friday.
“This is what we live for,” said Freddie Cotton, Futenma USO’s programs coordinator. “We want to give them a comfortable place to come in and relax … a home away from home.”
Williams said word has gotten out about the free breakfast. On March 17, Marines took The Green Line bus to Futenma from Hansen to fill up, he said. And for the last two weeks, Marines from Futenma’s chow hall ate breakfast and held their morning meeting there after serving up their own breakfast.
For Master Sgt. James Chino, the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical chief for the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, the USO breakfast is a good way to start the day.
“It’s something to look forward to on Friday mornings … to sit down with your Marines and break bread,” said Chino.
In addition to sit-down breakfasts, Williams said the USO also will fill take-out orders.
“You can call me and say: ‘Mr. Williams, I need 15 or 20 plates,’ and we’ll make the plates and have them ready to go for you,” he said.
Cotton said the free breakfast will “continue running as long as the troops want it.”
For more information or to order a stack of flapjacks to go, call the USO at DSN 636-2113.