• Col. David DeMartino, commander of the 332nd Expeditionary Mission Support Group, hands the first place trophy to Matthew Manoj, manager of Castle Heights, dining facility three, and a Kerala, India, native. Castle Heights won the title of best DFAC at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, after the sixth annual Thanksgiving Day competition.

    Castle Heights wins 6th annual Thanksgiving Day competition

    Col. David DeMartino, commander of the 332nd Expeditionary Mission Support Group, hands the first place trophy to Matthew Manoj, manager of Castle Heights, dining facility three, and a Kerala, India, native. Castle Heights won the title of best DFAC at...

  • Matthew Manoj, manager of Castle Heights, dining facility three, and a Kerala, India, native, and his team hold up the first place trophy after winning the award for best DFAC at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, following the Thanksgiving Day competition.

    Castle Heights wins 6th annual Thanksgiving Day competition

    Matthew Manoj, manager of Castle Heights, dining facility three, and a Kerala, India, native, and his team hold up the first place trophy after winning the award for best DFAC at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, following the Thanksgiving Day competition.

  • Sculptures made of food decorated the five dining facilities at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, for the sixth annual Thanksgiving Day competition. A team of judges from both the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and the 332nd Expeditionary Force Support Squadron evaluated the DFACs based on their menus, culinary artwork and decorations.

    Castle Heights wins 6th annual Thanksgiving Day competition

    Sculptures made of food decorated the five dining facilities at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, for the sixth annual Thanksgiving Day competition. A team of judges from both the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and the 332nd Expeditionary Force Support...

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - Castle Heights, dining facility three, took the title of best DFAC at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, in the sixth annual Thanksgiving Day competition, part of a joint forces food event Nov. 26 at JBB.


Five dining facilities at JBB competed against one another, evaluated on decoration, menu, theme and culinary presentation. They were judged by food service representatives from both the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and the 332nd Expeditionary Force Support Squadron, said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Mark Sutton, food service technician with the 13th ESC.

Second place was taken by Desert Inn, DFAC four, and in third place was Mirage, DFAC two, said Sutton, a Lebanon, Ind., native.



It takes skill to create the sculptures and decorations used in the comptetition, said Sutton. It is the aesthetic arrangement they evaluate, he said.

Sutton said the DFAC workers used limited materials to make the works of art. It is a huge undertaking, and the DFACs planned for two months in preparation, he said.


Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Bates, noncommissioned officer in charge of Castle Heights with the 50th Multi-Road Bridge Company, 37th Engineers Battalion, said the preparation and planning started in August. Service members worked with their civilian contractor counterparts, dedicating long hours to the sculptures decorating the DFAC, he said.


"A lot of these guys are not school trained, a lot of them did it free hand," said Bates, an Atlanta native. "Like the watermelon carvings; they just looked at a picture and carved it themselves."

Matthew Manoj, Castle Heights manager and a Serka contractor, did much of the planning.

"I got ideas, I'd explain it to the guys, and I have some talented artists who just make it happen," said Manoj, a Kerala, India, native.


Manoj said he is proud of the effort his team put into the event, Castle Heights' last as it is slated to close at the end of November. This motivated the staff to work harder in the competition, he said.

"All the DFACs did an outstanding job," said Sutton. "They're all winners, but there's some that place a little higher than others. It was a letdown when I went back to another dining facility to present them with second place."


The competition boosted the morale of the troops and the contractors in the spirit of Thanksgiving, said Sutton. He said they hoped to make everyone serving in Iraq feel a little more at home.

As Castle Heights prepares to close its doors, it claimed one last trophy.

"It was a bittersweet victory," said Bates.

Page last updated Sat November 28th, 2009 at 02:26