Operation ICE POP cools down Airmen

BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq -- Master Sgt. Sherry Hertlein, deployed to the 332 Expeditionary Medical Group from Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., hands an 'Ice Pop' to a patient at the Air Force Theater Hospital.  On 120-degree days in Iraq, air conditioners labor to maintain bearable temperatures in the tents of the field hospital. Patients found the icy treats to be a welcome relief heat, Sergeant Hertlein said. The ?Ice Pops? were donated by the communities from Cannon and Sergeant Hertlein's home town of Emporia, Kansas. The wounded Soldier in the photo is not identified in to protect his protect his privacy as a medical patient. ?Thanks to the many people who generously donated, we've reached a level that will sustain us through the summer,? she said. This month the hospital staff moves operations into a new, prefabricated building, which will have better insulation and air conditioning than the tents of the existing facility. (U.S. Air Force photo / Chief Master Sgt. Charles Cole)

BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq -- Master Sgt. Sherry Hertlein, deployed to the 332 Expeditionary Medical Group from Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., hands an 'Ice Pop' to a patient at the Air Force Theater Hospital. On 120-degree days in Iraq, air conditioners labor to maintain bearable temperatures in the tents of the field hospital. Patients found the icy treats to be a welcome relief heat, Sergeant Hertlein said. The ?Ice Pops? were donated by the communities from Cannon and Sergeant Hertlein's home town of Emporia, Kansas. The wounded Soldier in the photo is not identified in to protect his protect his privacy as a medical patient. ?Thanks to the many people who generously donated, we've reached a level that will sustain us through the summer,? she said. This month the hospital staff moves operations into a new, prefabricated building, which will have better insulation and air conditioning than the tents of the existing facility. (U.S. Air Force photo / Chief Master Sgt. Charles Cole)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Airmen and the Cannon community have shipped a cool treat in the form of ice pops to the injured troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Operation ICE POP provided ice pops to patients and medical staff in deployed medical treatment facilities, boosting morale and healing.

"We received over three dozen boxes of ice pops," said Chaplain (Capt.) Eusebia Rios, 447th Air Expeditionary Group, who is deployed from Cannon. "(The) packages have been a blessing and (they) have directly impacted the lives of so many."

Operation ICE POP got its start when Chief Master Sgt. Charlie Cole, 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group command chief, who is deployed from the 27th Medical Group, responded with "ice pops for the troops" when he was asked what could be sent to him from home, according to Col. Kenneth Hall, 27th Medical Group commander.

The driving force behind this effort from Cannon is Master Sgt. Laura Peters, 27th Medical Support Squadron, who said while it has been a challenge, she would be proud to lead this effort again in a heartbeat.

"As I spent my weekends inside my air conditioned house packing 13,800 ice pops in one night, I kept reminding myself it was 120 degrees in the shade over (in Southwest Asia)," said Sergeant Peters.

The in-house only initiative within 27 MDG quickly took off, said Colonel Hall, with donations of pops and cash donations for shipping. It soon spread to the Cannon and surrounding communities.

Collection stations were set up at Albertson's grocers and the Wal-Mart in Clovis. Rooney & Moon, local radio personalities, donated free advertising during their broadcasts. The Cannon AFB Post Office also went above and beyond in facilitating shipment. So far more than 42,000 pops have been collected and $1,844.65 has been donated.

To date, 21,400 total pops have been shipped to Balad Air Base, Iraq, Camp Sather, Iraq, and other locations in Southwest Asia. Another 21,000 pops are currently being prepped for shipment.