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Erica Larose, holding her daughter, Sarah, adds items to her grocery cart while waiting in a checkout line that stretched around the interior of Kadena's commissary Wednesday morning.

Erica Larose, holding her daughter, Sarah, adds items to her grocery cart while waiting in a checkout line that stretched around the interior of Kadena's commissary Wednesday morning. (Carlos Bongioanni / S&S)

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Word that military bases on Okinawa soon might go into Charlie or Delta force protection levels had many members of Okinawa’s military community flocking to base stores Wednesday.

Business was so brisk at Kadena’s commissary this week that customers had to line up for shopping carts.

Lt. Col. Kevin Krejcarek, a Kadena spokesman, declined to comment on force-protection levels or reports swirling around the base that they could increase at the onset of any Middle East hostilities.

The military’s four FPCON levels — Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta — each have increasingly restrictive security precautions that govern the movement of people, visitor identification, vehicle checks and parking next to facilities and buildings. Delta is the most restrictive.

Commanders normally declare FPCON Delta as a localized warning, when a terrorist attack has occurred or intelligence indicates such action is likely against a specific location, according to Defenselink, an official Defense Department Web site.

When the force protection level is Delta, commanders implement mandatory security measures tailored to the local scenario. They’re authorized and encouraged to supplement those as they see fit, the site said.

Kadena’s commissary rush began Tuesday after President Bush gave Iraqi President Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave Baghdad.

Erica Larose said her husband, a member of Kadena’s 909th Air Refueling Squadron, received word Wednesday his unit was deploying.

“He called and told me to get to the commissary and stock up and to make sure to get gas in the car in case we go to Delta,” said Larose.

While holding her 1-year-old daughter, Sarah, in her left arm, the mother filled her shopping cart with various nonperishable food items and a bag of diapers — “stuff I can’t live without,” she said.

The line Larose stood in stretched completely around the interior of Kadena’s commissary. The line first doubled upon itself. It then snaked its way through the bakery section, turned a corner, passed through the dairy and freezer sections, turned again, passed 11 aisles as well as the meat and deli sections before ending in front of the cabbages and carrots in the produce section.

Some customers took one look at the line and walked out of the store, but most endured the long wait. One Kadena resident said it took her 2½ hours to make it through the commissary Tuesday night.

Jody Schmidt, who’s married to a Marine, said her “own instinct” told her it would be prudent to stock up on foodstuffs in the event war breaks out.

“I’m just stocking up for the unknown,” said Schmidt, who lives in O’Donnel Gardens, a government housing area east of Kadena’s Gate 3.

“If the base goes to Force Protection Charlie or something higher, it’s a hassle getting on base. I figured I might as well be prepared. I think it’s something that’s at the back of everybody’s mind.”

Unlike Kadena, South Korea commissaries have not seen rushes, officials say.

“We have nothing like that happening here,” said Bruce Graf, the Korea zone manager in charge of all peninsula commissaries. “Our customers in Korea are not reacting that way, and we don’t anticipate any break in our supply chain at all.”

Mike Chase, a spokesman for Yokosuka Naval Base, said the commissary’s supply of goods is “holding up well.”

The same can be said for other commissaries in Japan, according to officials.

“Just another normal shopping day,” said Ken Boland, acting commissary officer at Misawa Air Base.

Greg Tyler, Franklin Fisher and Wayne Specht contributed to this report.

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