HOWLAND - Their kitchen didn't look like a munitions depot, but on some mornings Pam Copp and her daughter Lyndsay Leybold are in there - in hair nets and pajamas - readying an all-out cookie assault for troops serving overseas.
"It helps them to remember that people care," said Copp, sitting at the kitchen table with half-dozen labeled stacks of heart-shaped cookies wrapped in plastic.
"We're giving them a sample of home ... We've never met some of these people," said Leybold.
But many soldiers in Iraq benefit from their work. Since August, the mother-daughter team has been sending as many as eight dozen cookies a month overseas as part of a project begun by the Internet web log Operation Baking Gals. The blog, started by Susan Whetzel, uses the iconic Rosie the Riveter poster from World War II as a mascot. Through the site, Whetzel coordinates teams of bakers to ship baked goods to soldiers.
In the weeks that followed their story first breaking, the women say they've conscripted some new bakers while getting more help and notes of thanks from the community.
"We've got some donations from people in the neighborhood and from people at church," Copp said.
On their blog, the two posted an e-mail letter they received from a grateful mother to a soldier.
"I'm crying just thinking of (the care package's) arrival, day after day," the e-mail states.
The teams ship their dozens and dozens of cookies once a month. The objective - apparently - is to cause feelings of shock and awe once the care packages are opened.
"It's so they get bombarded," Leybold said.
Leybold claimed as many as 3,000 people have participated in the project since it began last summer.
The two ship their care packages - stuffed with cookies, jerky, candy, chipotle hot sauce and magazines - once a month, wrapped in plastic to protect the goods from any sand that gets into the box. They have a designated soldier who picks up the box and shares the wealth.
Copp and Leybold's contact was Zachary Sain, from the 910th Airlift Wing, who recently returned home from Iraq, where he was assigned to security forces. The cookies made him pretty popular. Word got around that he was the bag man for a guaranteed shipment of a few dozen cookies each month and pretty soon a lot of people around the Kirkuk Air Base knew who he was.
"I probably got 500-plus cookies. And not just cookies: I got beef jerky and candy and Christmas cards and stuff... They (the soldiers) liked that a lot. Some of them were getting the same thing from some different people but I blew them out of the water. I had about two tons more than they did," Sain said.
The care packages are signed with a Rosie the Riveter card and their e-mail address. So while Sain was making friends with every soldier around the base with a sweet tooth, Copp and Leybold were collecting "thank-yous" from families of the soldiers who sampled their cooking.
"I think some of them were trying to fix us up with their sons," Copp said, laughing.
The two said they traditionally bake "lots and lots" of cookies for Christmas every year. They've experimented with different types of cookies throughout their hobby and seemed particularly proud of a half-coffee half-chocolate flavored cookie.
A few things can't be shipped, however. Chocolate bars would melt into a brick of candy and wrapping paper. Iced cookies won't survive the trip in-tact either, but Copp and Leybold are getting the impression the troops would be willing to sink their teeth into whatever came out of their oven.