Above: 27th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Robert Yates carves turkey for the Thanksgiving meal Thursday at The Pecos Trail on Cannon Air Force Base. CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth.
By Darrell Todd Maurina
CANNON AIR FORCE BASE — The top leadership of Cannon Air Force Base and their families turned out Thursday to carve turkey and serve the troops.
Barbara Yates, wife of base commander Col. Robert Yates, said she loves serving the troops — partly because she remembers what it was like as the daughter of an Air Force master sergeant to eat Thanksgiving dinner in a different community every few years, usually far away from her relatives.
“This is very, very meaningful and it’s an honor to be able to serve all those who serve for us,” Yates said. “Growing up Air Force, we always remembered the people we thought of as family, because the Air Force became our family.”
Lt. Col. John Donovan of the 27th Services Squadron said the special serving arrangements are designed to help those in the military cope with holiday loneliness.
“Especially for our younger airmen who are away from home for Thanksgiving the first time, we are here to take care of them,” Donovan said.
Donovan said he helped Col. Yates and other senior leaders get special camouflage chef’s hats for their serving duties.
“They’re not commonly seen, but they are regulation uniform and they can wear them,” Donovan said.
Senior Airman Christopher Kovach of the 522nd Aircraft Maintenance Unit said it was “pretty cool” to be served Thanksgiving turkey by the base commander.
“It shows he really cares about his troops and the community here,” Kovach said.
Kovach, a New Jersey native, said he called his family earlier in the day but that it’s “pretty tough” to be away over Thanksgiving.
Later in the day, Yates, his wife, and Command Chief Master Sgt. James Randall went around to serve food to personnel who could not leave their posts on Thanksgiving Day such as firefighters, gate guards, the command post, and the network control center.
Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Drew Neal said leaving his home in Albuquerque to do gate guard duty at Cannon has been difficult, but he appreciated the effort made by senior commanders to support the enlisted ranks.
“What it does for me is it reminds me of all the people on active duty outside our country,” Neal said. “We appreciate the support, we’re grateful for them coming out today, and it makes a difference.”
2nd Lt. Jennifer Geeslin of Cannon Public Affairs said 32 senior leaders and their spouses served 177 meals to airmen.
“It’s a small number, but that’s good because it means a lot of people got to eat with friends or family,” according to Col. Lisa Firmin, commander of the 27th Mission Support Group.