Camp Schwab wins “Wing-A-Palooza” brings Eli Young Band to Okinawa
CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan -- When it comes to food, the Marines on Okinawa proved they like wings, wings and more wings. And it was their devotion to wings that won them a concert.
The Eli Young Band came to Okinawa for five days beginning Oct. 31 to present the award to the winning Pizza Hut of an Army and Air Force Exchange Service “Wing-A-Palooza” contest, and attend a meet-and-greet with Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division.
During the band’s visit, they also attended CAB’s 239th Marine Corps Birthday Ball, and rocked the stage during a free concert for service members and their families at Camp Hansen.
The idea for the “Wing-A-Palooza,” a world-wide contest to determine what camp could eat the most wings, came to the directors of AAFES a year ago, according to Ron Trementozzi, the assistant director of restaurant management for AAFES. While AAFES usually have prizes that an individual can win at various store locations around the world, this event was created to benefit a larger audience of service members.
While there were 15 bands available to choose to preform, the Exchange wanted to choose the one who showed the drive to play for service members, according to Shannon St. Clair, a senior director in charge of architecture, engineering and marketing for the AAFES.
“The band we picked to play the concert had to appeal to not just the service members, but their families also,” said St. Clair, from Plano, Texas. “When we were making our decision it was an easy pick. The Eli Young Band is a newer upcoming band, and they showed initiative and enthusiasm about playing.”
The event was a good, unique way for hardworking service members and their families to enjoy time together, according to U.S. Air Force Col. Kristin McCoy, the commander of AAFES Asian-Pacific Region.
“We have all four branches of services on this island working hard, and this gives them a chance to relax and spend time with friends and families,” said McCoy, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “It’s always nice to come out and have fun. This event provided that, and there were big smiles and shouting for the band the whole time.”
Marines appreciated the band traveling so far to provide a free concert and a feeling of home, according to Cpl. John Kelley, a rifleman with 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, under the unit deployment program.
“It was nice to have a break from the everyday grind and see a concert,” said Kelley, from St. Augustin, Florida. “[The band] wants to help and improve the life of Marines which shows the respect and love the Eli Young Band has for service members.”
When it was first announced the band was coming to Okinawa, they got an instant response, according to Jon Jones, from Omaha, Nebraska, the band’s bass guitarist. The band received emails from Marines requesting songs, and explaining their excitement for the concert which only added to the enthusiasm the band already had for getting to play for service members.
“To be able to say thanks to that many Marines at once is a pretty big deal, it was good to be up on stage saying thanks,” said Mike Eli from Tomball, Texas, the lead vocalist for the band. “The Marines always fight for a little bit of home when they are this far away, and if we accomplished bringing that little piece of home to the island tonight, it was a great honor.”