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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Yokota’s squadron commanders and first sergeants are busy laying the groundwork for Operation Project Elf, a 374th Services Division effort to deliver special treats to the men and women who will be working Christmas Eve.

Services officials anticipate filling about 400 bags, which may include toys, candy, gum, mints, cookies and potato chips.

The bags will be collected at the Yujo Recreation Center on Friday and taken to offices around the base.

“First sergeants and commanders let us know how many in their command are working Christmas Eve. We make sure there is enough for the deserving,” said Jan Bush, marketing director for the 374th Services Division.

“They’ll pick up the bags at the Yujo between 4 and 6 p.m. This gives them time to visit with their troops who have to work that night and distribute the packages.”

The services division funds the project, supplemented by contributions from the Yokota community.

“We still need more donations for this year,” Bush said. “Last year, we were lucky and received some fun Nerf toys.”

The Elf project is the brainchild of Bob McFall, the interim chief of Yokota’s Family Member Programs Flight, who started the program at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss., and suggested it for Yokota a year ago.

“It’s a special time of the year for giving and remembering,” McFall said.

“I feel like this is a small reminder to our base personnel, that their Yokota and Air Force family is thinking about them while they are working and watching over us on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.”

As of Friday, 18 Yokota squadrons had signed up to take part, Bush said.

Services officials received high marks for the inaugural Operation Project Elf.

“The first sergeants and commanders have been very grateful for this program,” Bush added. “It helps them reward their troops.

“And it’s important if you are the operator or security police or desk clerk at lodging who has to work that day.”

Or a forecaster with Yokota’s 20th Operational Weather Squadron, said Lt. Col. Michael Farrar, the unit’s commander.

“Neither the weather, nor real-world operations impacted by weather, are confined to a daytime, business work schedule,” Farrar said.

“As such, weather warriors such as those at the 20th Operational Weather Squadron are working 24/7 in all parts of the globe right through this and every holiday season.

“Project Elf is designed to recognize their contributions and sacrifices, and send a little extra Christmas cheer their way as they do their part to protect our nation’s security. We are all thankful for dedicated professionals like them, and Project Elf is one more way we can say thanks.”

To be included in this year’s Operation Project Elf, commanders and first sergeants must submit the names of servicemembers slated to work Christmas Eve — along with points of contact — by Monday at 5 p.m. Call DSN 225-6955/6966 or fax names and contacts to DSN 225-4444.

Those interested in donating items should contact Nagako Destin, the program’s sponsorship coordinator, at DSN 225-3308.

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