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Isle Guard brings luau to Iraq


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POSTED: Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hawaii Air National Guard Senior Master Sgt. Lee Sonomura and Master Sgt. Kurt Kawachi spent part of this week in a Kirkuk Air Base kitchen cleaning green onions.

That's while Tech. Sgt. Leomer Domingo, Senior Airman Aaron Tanaka and Senior Airman Stephanie Ignacio shredded and bagged kalua pig.

They were working up a menu of favorites from home: kalua pig, lomi salmon, chicken long rice, haupia, macaroni salad, Spam and cabbage, planned by members of the Maui-based 292nd Combat Communications Squadron.

The Hawaii airmen and women spent the better part of this month preparing for a 50th anniversary of Hawaii statehood luau in Iraq on Saturday. The nearly four dozen Hawaii Air National Guard airmen deployed to Iraq for six months.

Master Sgt. Sean Iida, first sergeant of the Maui-based communications squadron, said he expects more than 1,000 people from 506th Air Expeditionary Group at Saturday night's luau, which will be held in the base's dining facility.

Iida, in an e-mail, said: “;It is getting closer to the big date and everything is just coming together. It is so exciting and nerve-racking at the same time.”;

He noted that support from the islands has been overwhelming in all forms, product contributions and monetary donations.

“;All of us here in Iraq are so proud to come from a place like Hawaii. There really is no other place like it. Hawaii is truly paradise, and I am talking about the people that make up our state.

“;There are so many people that donated stuff,”; he added.

Among the contributors:

» Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corp. donated chocolates and mac nuts.

» NOH Foods sent mixes of haupia, iced tea and char siu.

» Kala Ukulele donated two ukuleles.

» Sheraton Hotels donated 700 leis.

» Goodwill industries provided discounted aloha shirts.

» Hyatt Hotels gave a door prize of a day stay and breakfast.

“;Like I said, there are countless others, and the people of Hawaii have been overwhelming with their generosity.”;

Besides airmen from Maui, the contingent includes citizen reservists from the 291st Combat Communications Squadron in Hilo and the 293rd Combat Communications Squadron, normally based at Hickam Air Force Base.

Iida said the luau started out as just a squadron dinner for 60 people and “;mushroomed when the higher-ups got word of it.”;

“;Our program will incorporate games that involve Hawaiian trivia, local music, dancing, picture-taking against a hand-painted mural, of course ... lots of food ... and much more,”; Iida added. “;We have started construction of our stage and are getting the decorations and centerpieces together. As always, our dancers are practicing to ensure a great show for the troops here in Iraq.”;

Iida said the Hawaii Air Guard men will be doing the haka entitled “;Ka Mele”; and the women will be dancing to “;Ulupalakua”; and “;Kaunanoeanuhea.”;