Officials at Malmstrom Air Force Base, a hub for nuclear missiles in central Montana, chartered a plane to fly in 300 Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwiches as a treat for base junior enlisted troops this week.
A picture posted to Facebook showed boxes of Chick-Fil-A being unloaded on Tuesday, Aug. 30, from a Piper II airplane.
“[We] literally could not fit a single extra sandwich in the airplane,” Command Sgt. Michael Becker of the 341st Missile Wing told Coffee or Die Magazine. “We had to cut a passenger out due to weight. It was absolutely stuffed with sandwiches.”
Word of the sandwiches quickly produced a line stretching to the sidewalk outside a base cafeteria. Becker said the $1,100-worth of sandwiches were gone in under four minutes. “We’re talking about not locally available, very popular chicken sandwiches,” he said.
Private donors paid for the grub and put up an additional $700 to get each airman a drink from a base bar, Becker said.
Duty at Malmstrom is excellent for those who enjoy rugged rural settings like Montana, Becker said, but junior troops often miss big city amenities like Chick-Fil-A.
“We’re a big city for Montana standards. We got about 60,000 people in Great Falls, Montana, but we are in the middle of Montana,” Becker said. “If you’re not into hunting and fishing or floating on the river, there may not be a lot here for you.”
Malmstrom is among the most isolated rural bases in the US military, chosen deliberately to keep US nuclear missiles far from population centers. The closest Chick-Fil-A restaurant to Malmstrom is a 300-mile road trip away, northwest over the Rocky Mountains in Kalispell (though there will soon be a Chick-Fil-A in Billings, just 220 miles away). The closest major city to Malmstrom is probably Spokane, Washington, about 400 miles away. Boise, Idaho, is more than 500 miles away.
“We get a lot of young airmen in here, especially a lot of young defenders. They come from Brooklyn or Miami or Puerto Rico or Los Angeles or South Texas, and they’ve never been far north,” Becker said. “They’ve never been out West. They’ve never been in the mountains. They’ve never dealt with a winter like this. They’ve never been thousands of miles away from home.”
And they’ve never been so far from Chick-Fil-A.
Commenters on Facebook made it clear how much airmen at the base appreciated the sandwiches.
“Some of y’all are laughing but there is NOWHERE good to eat nearby,” one commenter wrote. “Closest Olive Garden is 3 hours [away] and the Chick-Fil-A is like 3.5 when you’re driving through the mountains. People would literally spend their weekends traveling Montana to eat somewhere that’s good or they missed back home.”
The sandwich giveaway was the brainchild of noncommissioned officers with the Malmstrom 5/6 Alliance.
The original plan was to drive for the sandwiches, leaving early in the morning to load them into a van. But Becker reached out to a friend in town who owns a small plane. “Wouldn’t it be cool if this guy can fly us up there and get the sandwiches?” he said. The pilot gave an immediate “yes” and donated the gas and flight time.
The flight from Great Falls to Kalispell is usually about 90 minutes in a small prop plane, Becker said.
The Chick-Fil-A delivery was a highlight in Malmstrom’s Airman Appreciation Week, a series of events put on by the 5/6 Alliance for airmen ranking E-4 and below from Monday to Thursday, Becker said. The week included kickball, a minor league baseball game, and a mental health resilience day.
“Anything we can do to make it fun for them to be here for the time that they’re on our team — I’m absolutely going to do it every time,” Becker said.