Annual cookie drive aims to help Airmen feel at home

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Natalie Fiorilli
  • 1st Special Operation Wing Public Affairs

For Michele Kerlin and fellow members of the Hurlburt Spouses’ Club, helping to coordinate programs like the annual Commando Cookie Drive is a personal matter.

Kerlin, president of the spouses’ club, and several volunteers worked to collect and distribute 17,636 cookie donations to 800 Airmen living in the dorms here and at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Dec. 6, 2021.

Kerlin is also the mother of a U.S. Army Soldier stationed in Colorado and living in the barracks.

“It’s one thing for your spouse to be in the military, but when your kids are in the military, that’s a whole other level,” said Kerlin. “I feel like if I’m doing stuff like this here, somebody is doing something for her.”

The Commando Cookie Drive, an annual program led by the Hurlburt Spouses’ Club, aims to give Airmen living in the dorms a “taste of home,” said Kerlin.

“Some of them may not have a chance to go home, or they are working over the holidays,” she added. “This is just a little something that we do to thank them and remind them that they’re important and they’re part of the family here.”

Volunteers worked inside the Hurlburt Field Chapel throughout the day on Dec. 6, to sort through the nearly 17,000 cookie donations and prepare bags containing baked goods, candy, coffee, and handwritten cards and drawings from local students.

Along with the spouses’ club, Airmen and other representatives from partner organizations, like Blue Star Families, helped to prepare the bags.

In addition to donations from Airmen and families on-base, the club received cookies from local groups including American Heritage Girls, Girl Scouts, the Fort Walton Beach High School Junior ROTC, Starbucks and the Okaloosa Technical College culinary arts program.

Afterward, squadron first sergeants personally delivered the items to Airmen in the dorms and in their respective workplaces around base.

“For a lot of them, it’s their first time being away from home for Christmas,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Sutton, the 901st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant first sergeant. “Being able to help spread some joy and to help them feel at home here is important for us to do.”

Sutton and fellow 901st SOAMXS first sergeant, Senior Master Sgt. Edward Slaughter, delivered the bags to their Airmen.

Airman Sean Kim, a 901st SOAMXS electronic warfare technician, said the cookies were a nice surprise, especially as a new Airman at his first duty station.

“Coming here and being welcomed like this and having these types of programs is pretty morale boosting,” said Kim.“These types of things are really important for the ones that can’t go home.”