• A large turkey made out of crackers, cereal, and dough sits on the serving line in the foreground while a "Wagonmaster" patch made of hardened sugar sits in the background. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley, 15th Sustainment Brigade public affairs)

    A large turkey made out of crackers, cereal...

    A large turkey made out of crackers, cereal, and dough sits on the serving line in the foreground while a "Wagonmaster" patch made of hardened sugar sits in the background. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley, 15th Sustainment Brigade public...

  • Spc. Eisner Gaitain, 3rd Infantry Division bandsmen, plays Christmas music on his drums with the 3rd Infantry Division's The Marne Jazz Ensemble in the dining facility here Nov. 26 as part of the Thanksgiving festivities. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley, 15th Sustainment Brigade public affairs)

    Spc. Eisner Gaitain, 3rd Infantry Division...

    Spc. Eisner Gaitain, 3rd Infantry Division bandsmen, plays Christmas music on his drums with the 3rd Infantry Division's The Marne Jazz Ensemble in the dining facility here Nov. 26 as part of the Thanksgiving festivities. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt...

  • Sgt. 1st Class Eric Cryer, 3rd Infantry Division bandsmen, plays Christmas music on his bass guitar with the 3rd Infantry Division's The Marne Jazz Ensemble in the dining facility here Nov. 26 as part of the Thanksgiving festivities. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley, 15th Sustainment Brigade public affairs)

    Sgt. 1st Class Eric Cryer, 3rd Infantry...

    Sgt. 1st Class Eric Cryer, 3rd Infantry Division bandsmen, plays Christmas music on his bass guitar with the 3rd Infantry Division's The Marne Jazz Ensemble in the dining facility here Nov. 26 as part of the Thanksgiving festivities. (U.S. Army photo...

  • Spc. Carlos Seijo [left], a 15th Sust. Bde. cook, dresses like a turkey while Pfc. Daniel Rivera, also a 15th cook, stands by the hardened sugar "Wagonmaster" patch he created during a Thanksgiving feast here, Nov. 26. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley, 15th Sustainment Brigade public affairs)

    Spc. Carlos Seijo [left], a 15th Sust. Bde...

    Spc. Carlos Seijo [left], a 15th Sust. Bde. cook, dresses like a turkey while Pfc. Daniel Rivera, also a 15th cook, stands by the hardened sugar "Wagonmaster" patch he created during a Thanksgiving feast here, Nov. 26. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew...

  • A 3-D cake made by Sixto Jimenez, a San Jose Del Monte, Philippines, native and head baker for the dining facility here, sits on display at Thanksgiving dinner next to a dining facility entrance here, Nov. 26, showing a Bible open to the 23rd Psalm. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley, 15th Sustainment Brigade public affairs)

    A 3-D cake made by Sixto Jimenez, a San Jose...

    A 3-D cake made by Sixto Jimenez, a San Jose Del Monte, Philippines, native and head baker for the dining facility here, sits on display at Thanksgiving dinner next to a dining facility entrance here, Nov. 26, showing a Bible open to the 23rd Psalm...

  • Thousands of Soldiers eat Thanksgiving dinner at the dining facility here, Nov.26, surrounded by decorations including a large model of pilgrim's ship. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley, 15th Sustainment Brigade public affairs)

    Thousands of Soldiers eat Thanksgiving dinner...

    Thousands of Soldiers eat Thanksgiving dinner at the dining facility here, Nov.26, surrounded by decorations including a large model of pilgrim's ship. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley, 15th Sustainment Brigade public affairs)

  • A cornucopia bursting with fruit sits on display at Thanksgiving dinner near a dining facility entrance here, Nov. 26. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley, 15th Sustainment Brigade public affairs)

    A cornucopia bursting with fruit sits on...

    A cornucopia bursting with fruit sits on display at Thanksgiving dinner near a dining facility entrance here, Nov. 26. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley, 15th Sustainment Brigade public affairs)

  • An eagle ice sculpture sits on display in the foreground while a swan ice sculpture sits among fruit carvings in the background during Thanksgiving dinner here, Nov. 26. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley, 15th Sustainment Brigade public affairs)

    An eagle ice sculpture sits on display in the...

    An eagle ice sculpture sits on display in the foreground while a swan ice sculpture sits among fruit carvings in the background during Thanksgiving dinner here, Nov. 26. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley, 15th Sustainment Brigade public...

  • A cake depicting pilgrims sits on the serving line of the dining facility here during Thanksgiving dinner, Nov. 26. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley, 15th Sustainment Brigade public affairs)

    A cake depicting pilgrims sits on the serving...

    A cake depicting pilgrims sits on the serving line of the dining facility here during Thanksgiving dinner, Nov. 26. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley, 15th Sustainment Brigade public affairs)

  • Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Finley, 15th Sustainment Brigade schools and training noncommissioned officer, serves Thanksgiving dinner in the dining facility here, Nov. 26. It is traditional for senior noncommissioned officers and commissioned officers to serve their subordinates Thanksgiving dinner. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley, 15th Sustainment Brigade public affairs)

    Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Finley, 15th Sustainment...

    Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Finley, 15th Sustainment Brigade schools and training noncommissioned officer, serves Thanksgiving dinner in the dining facility here, Nov. 26. It is traditional for senior noncommissioned officers and commissioned officers to...

  • A 3-D cake made by Sixto Jimenez, a San Jose Del Monte, Philippines, native and head baker for the dining facility here, sits on display at Thanksgiving dinner next to a dining facility entrance here, Nov. 26. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley, 15th Sustainment Brigade public affairs)

    A 3-D cake made by Sixto Jimenez, a San Jose...

    A 3-D cake made by Sixto Jimenez, a San Jose Del Monte, Philippines, native and head baker for the dining facility here, sits on display at Thanksgiving dinner next to a dining facility entrance here, Nov. 26. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew C...

  • Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan Ward, 3rd Infantry Division bandsmen, plays Christmas music on his trumpet with the 3rd Infantry Division's The Marne Jazz Ensemble behind a large model ship in the dining facility here Nov. 26 as part of the Thanksgiving festivities. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley, 15th Sustainment Brigade public affairs)

    Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan Ward, 3rd...

    Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan Ward, 3rd Infantry Division bandsmen, plays Christmas music on his trumpet with the 3rd Infantry Division's The Marne Jazz Ensemble behind a large model ship in the dining facility here Nov. 26 as part of the...

CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION Q-WEST, Iraq - Ice sculptures glistened next to massive 3-D cakes. Thousands of Soldiers listened to Christmas music performed by a jazz band while feasting on turkey, ham, dressing, and more. Soldiers dressed as Native Americans, pilgrim settlers, and even a turkey roamed about taking pictures with others.

Thanksgiving had come to Contingency Operating Location Q-West.

The 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), operated dining facility hosted Thanksgiving dinner for U.S. and Iraqi service members and civilian contractors working on base from around the world here Nov. 26.

For Sgt. Brenda Berger, a Raleigh, Miss., native and battle desk noncommissioned officer for A Company, 106th Brigade Support Battalion, this was her second Thanksgiving in Iraq.

"I don't particularly like it ... it's just part of the deal," she said.

Master Sgt. Vanessa Price, a Shreveport, La., native and senior food management NCO in charge, said that they tried to provide a feeling of home, although it was not like grandma's cooking.

"[The cooks] worked a lot of late hours. A lot of them had only maybe one or two hours of sleep," she said, referring to the night before Thanksgiving.

"It's all worth it just to see the smiling faces," she said.

Their hard work didn't go unnoticed either.

"It's a nice change from the everyday thing," Berger said.

"The ice sculptures are really nice. I never had ice sculptures at my Thanksgiving before!"

"They did an awesome job on the decorations!" Spc. Willie Copeland, a B Company, 2nd Battalion, 198th Combined Arms Brigade, convoy security driver and Senatobia, Miss., native said.

He agreed with Berger that it was hard to be away from family and friends back home during this time of year, but the cooks' efforts to make Thanksgiving better for the Soldiers helped.

"Thanksgiving is the Super Bowl for us cooks," Pfc. Daniel Rivera, an Apple Valley, Calif., resident from Ceiba, Puerto Rico, and 15th Sust. Bde. cook, said.

Rivera, with coaching and assistance from Sgt. 1st Class Jason Cecil, a Nashville, Tenn., native and DFAC manager, carved several ice sculptures including a horse's head like the one in the 15th's patch.

"[It makes you feel good] if you can sit down, eat a good meal, and have good art made by the same cooks who cook your meals every day," Rivera said.

According to Cpl. Joseph Williams, a Baton Rouge, La., native and 15th cook, most of the preparation work was done by the scores of civilian contract workers at the DFAC.

"A lot of these people don't get the recognition that they should," Williams said.

"They work real hard."

Workers like Sixto Jimenez, a San Jose Del Monte, Philippines, native and head baker for the dining facility here, who made all ten of the decorative cakes at the feast with assistance from his baking team, a process that took him five days while carrying out his normal daily duties.

"I didn't focus on that only," Jimenez said in a thick Filipino accent.

"If I have free time, I make one."

Jimenez, a baker for U.S. forces in Iraq for four years, said that he was excited to have so many people enjoy his work.

Around 3,000 pounds of meat, including 1,920 pounds of turkey, were cooked for the feast, Price said.

Although the feast was a lot of work, doing more with less is business as usual for these cooks.

"The kitchen has a feeding capacity of 3,500 and we feed 13,000 a day," Staff Sgt. Ron Adams, a Danielson, Conn., native and DFAC assistant manager said.

At the end of the meal, many were reminded of the day's main theme - giving thanks.

Berger said she could think of a long list of things to be thankful for.

"I'm thankful that in about 90 days I'll be going home [and] our company has had no major injuries or deaths," she said.

She smiled and added, "And the Saints have a perfect season so for!"

Copeland also said he had something to be thankful for.

"I'm thankful to be alive ... to enjoy thanksgiving."

Page last updated Wed December 9th, 2009 at 07:58