Holiday meals teach new traditions
December 5, 2013
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- More than 12,000 people feasted at Fort Jackson dining facilities during the Thanksgiving holiday.
This number not only included Soldiers, but veterans and family members as well, who sat down to meals served at nine dining facilities Nov. 27-28.
"The command emphasis of ensuring Soldiers had a family-like Thanksgiving is probably what we do best here at Fort Jackson," said John Nelums, the post's quality assurance evaluator with the Directorate of Logistics. "The commanding general's outreach program, which invites local retirees to our Thanksgiving meals, went very well. We had a good showing, but that's typical of Fort Jackson."
With the number of visitors taking part in holiday meals rivaling the population of a small city, it takes coordination to make sure there's enough food to go around each year.
"We use historical data," Nelums said. "And, commanders get additional numbers by asking Soldiers to see if they had an idea of how many folks they had coming to visit."
Last week, the post had a surprising number of families who decided to eat a Thanksgiving meal on Fort Jackson, even though many of their Soldiers were eligible travel off post.
"Instead of taking them off post, they stayed here with them on post for Thanksgiving," he said. "We were able to put together a Thanksgiving plan to let them eat here on Fort Jackson."
Dining facilities were judged during last week's meals, with awards issued for the facility with the best decorations, theme, originality and culinary displays. These criteria are factored with the traditional elements of holiday meal services, which can have a profound impact on some Soldiers.
"The decorations are almost a 'show within a show,'" Nelums said. "The managers and battalions orchestrate a Thanksgiving program within the larger framework of the installation program. Traditionally, we have events such as the chaplain's prayer, the posting of the colors and recognizing the table of a fallen comrade."
These are elements that Soldiers will see throughout their careers, he said, not matter where they are assigned.
"We start teaching tradition here at Fort Jackson," Nelums said. "With our competitions last week, it was a matter of who did it best. Next year, the challenge will be to improve upon our performance, and to come up with new ideas. We've seen almost everything."