FORT HOOD, Texas - Walking up to the Freeman CafAfA to enjoy a meal this Thanksgiving, one might have noticed something not normally seen outside of Army dining facilities.

Horses and a chuck wagon posted in front of the entrance, with a few Soldiers clad in American Revolution and Civil War-era garb and a Wagonmaster.

Or, on the other side of the building, a '50s-era Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, complete with Soldiers dressed in period uniforms and a Jeep.

Once inside, ice sculptures and edible displays filled the building, displaying the hard work and talent of the dining facility's Soldiers.

No, this wasn't some kind of weird time warp, the Freeman CafAfA put on its best for the annual Fort Hood Thanksgiving dining facility competition.

The leadership and staff wanted to pay a tribute to the achievement and service of 15th Sustainment Brigade and 1st Medical Brigade Soldiers throughout past periods of war, said Sgt. 1st Class Lucio Norris, manager of the Freeman CafAfA.

Inside the decorations continued, one dining room had a military theme to all its dAfAcor, while the other reflected a more traditional Thanksgiving theme, said Norris, a Newark, N.J., native.

Many of the displays were put together by the younger Soldiers, in the rank of specialist or below, and for many of them, it was their first time putting together a decorative dish, Norris explained.

Since there are Soldiers from all across the states stationed at Fort Hood, many with vastly different ideas of what a "traditional" Thanksgiving is, Norris said they wanted to have great diversity in the food offered.

From shrimp, crab and lobster, to the more traditional turkey, ham and stuffing, they wanted to cover it all, Norris said.

One of the displays, a giant turkey made from salt dough, took Spc. Joseph Van Avery, cook, 57th Signal battalion, more than 16 hours to create.

He said it took about 12 hours to shape the dough, and another four or five to create the individual feathers and color the turkey.

What about the food'

According to Sgt. Jonathan Mock, generator mechanic, 4th Sustainment Brigade, the crab was surprisingly good.

Mock said the cooks did a really good job on the crab, and he considers himself picky, since he is from Alaska.

In the end, the efforts of the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Soldiers running Freeman paid off.

The Freeman CafAfA was awarded 1st Place in the competition, and a trophy was presented by Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, the III Corps' commanding general, and Command Sgt. Maj. Neil Ciotola, the III Corps' senior noncommissioned officer.

Ciotola said he gives thanks for the countless mothers and fathers who wore the uniforms of yesteryear on display at the dining facility, as well as the Soldiers who currently wear the uniform.

Ciotola also saw what he described as the "essence of leadership" in the Soldiers and NCOs at the Freeman CafAfA.

"I saw people who dug deep," he said. "I saw people with a sense of duty and love."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16