By MC3 Robyn B. Melvin

NPASE Detachment Southeast

Naval Station (NAVSTA) Mayport's Commissary hosts commands and services from all over Naval Station Mayport in their 7th annual Cupcake War, April 28. 

Cupcake Wars is a popular TV show in which teams create unique cupcakes and compete against each other for a prize. Mayport's Navy Exhange used the idea of a baking competition as a way to get commands from around the base to interact with each other and the NEX. 

"About 7 years ago we asked, 'how do we do things at the Navy Exchange that will bring all the commands together,''' said Bill Hockenbury general manager of the Navy Exchange (NEX). 

"We came up with a bunch of different ideas and this [the cupcake wars] was our first one. It's been a success," Hockenbury added.

The NEX is a retail store chain owned and operated by the United States Navy under the Navy Exchange Service Command, and according to Hockenbury, the NEX is not just for retail needs, but for the needs of the Sailors as well. 

"I think it's important to know that the NEX isn't just here to make money," said Hockenbury. "We are really here for the military community, so this is our way of saying 'here we are,' it's our way of giving back and we enjoy doing this."

Each command that participated had a table to display their edible art and a theme to go along with the cupcakes. 

"I've been in love with Disney princesses since I was young like most girls my age," said Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Justinne Ivanitskiy, assigned to the USS New York (LPD 21). "So the theme of my cupcakes are Disney world meets Disney princesses."

The cupcakes were judged by a panel of senior and master chiefs along with some of the management on base.  

"They [the cupcakes] were awesome," said Bill Houlihan, command master chief of NAVSTA Mayport. "You could tell a lot of work went into them, and I will be feeling the effects of them for several days to follow."

Although the cupcake wars were created as a way to get commands to interact with the NEX, it has also become a great team building exercise. According to Chief Culinary Specialist David Hargress, assigned to the USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), the competition was a way to bring everyone together to showcase their talents.

"I feel like this was very much a team effort from the USS Iwo Jima," said Hargress. "I feel like that alone makes us winners."

Some teams like the office of Environmental and Natural Resources even used the competition as a way to raise awareness about different causes. 

"Sea turtles are the theme of our cupcakes, because our main focus in the office of Environmental Natural Resources are our nesting beaches here in Mayport," said Hayley Digiano, employee of the office of Environmental Natural Resources. "So we are just raising awareness and showing people that we need to protect these species."

The competition concluded with the USS New York (LPD 21) taking home the first place prize and all of the teams taking home a sense of teamwork, comradery and dozens of sweets. 

"Events like this just prove that it doesn't have to be work all the time," said Houlihan. "It's nice to get out here and see people having fun."