FORT MEADE, Md., Jan. 13, 2011 -- Just inside the front doors of the Freedom Inn Dining Facility at Fort Meade, Md., is a large, glass trophy case against the side wall.

It is easy to miss, however, as there is always a sea of Soldiers waiting in line to get inside for their meals.

The trophy case is packed with awards won by Fort Meade's dining facilities through the years. Pretty soon it's going to be even more crammed as a new, rather large addition will be making its way to the Freedom Inn in the spring.

A few weeks ago, Timothy Copes, Fort Meade Food Service Program manager, was notified that the Freedom Inn was named the 2011 Philip A. Connelly Award winner in the large garrison category.

Copes said he was jubilant and "excited and happy for the program" when he received word that his dining facility had won the prestigious food service award.

The annual award, which is given for excellence in food service, is named after a former president of the International Food Service Executives Association. The Army-wide competition has several categories including large garrison, small garrison and field kitchens.

Camp Zama, Japan, took first place in the small garrison category and the runner-up was the Pegasus Inn Dining Facility, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

The 126th Transportation Company at Fort Bragg, N.C., won the field kitchen category and the runner-up was the 55th Military Police Company, 94th Military Police Battalion, Camp Stanley, Korea.

The runner-up for the large garrison dining facility was the Area Support Group-Qatar dining facility at Camp As-Sayliyah, Qatar.

The 824th Quartermaster Company (Heavy Airdrop Systems) at Fort Bragg won the Army Reserve category and the Support Company for the 216th Engineer Battalion in Cincinnati, Ohio, won the National Guard award.

According to the Quartermaster School website, the Connelly competition's objective is to improve the professionalism of food service employees, which will help create the highest quality food service for service members.

"It's comparable to winning the Super Bowl," Copes said. "It's a worldwide competition and it's a legacy we can always look on as meeting the goal of excellence."

Copes said the award is a credit to the entire installation.

"It brings recognition to the Fort Meade community and the Soldiers here, allowing them to realize they have first-class service." Copes said.

Both Copes and Samuel Sankey, the contracting officer representative at the Directorate of Logistics, said the competition for the award is very tight and that it takes a lot of work and time to finish well.

"The Phillip A. Connelly award program is not an overnight thing you say you want do to," Copes said. "You have to prepare yourself and stage yourself to compete."

Judges from the Connelly competition visit every competing facility during the fall to critique almost every small detail of food service.

Facilities are judged in areas such as employee attitude, sanitation and command support -- all of which affect food service. Each facility starts with 1,000 points. Points are then deducted based on the judges' critique of each facility.

After being judged in 11 different categories, the Freedom Inn received a total score, which is then compared against the six other facilities in their category. Fort Meade was up against other large garrison dining facilities from around the world, including facilities in South Korea and Germany.

But the food service during the judging process was the same as every other day of the year, Sankey said. For years, Sankey has been preaching his motto of "Connelly is not just one day. Connelly is every day," to the employees at the Freedom Inn.

The award really reflects the work of all the staff at the dining facility, he said.

"Management sets the pace, but it's actually the worker bees in there -- the cooks, the bakers, the ration personnel," he said. "These are the people who were focused on [in the competition]. You have to give credit to those who make it happen on a daily basis."

Many of the Freedom Inn staffers have taken part in past competitions.

In 2005, the now-closed Chesapeake Inn dining facility on Fort Meade was named runner-up in the Connelly competition in the small garrison category.

Since Freedom Inn was built in 2006, the facility was moved to the Connelly's large garrison category, which Sankey says is a bigger challenge.

"[The year] 2005 was when we got back on the map," Sankey said. "Running for the large [garrison] category has more recognition."

When the Chesapeake Inn was named runner-up, Sankey went to Miami to attend the Connelly awards ceremony to receive the second-place plaque. In the spring, a team from Fort Meade, including Sankey and Copes, will travel to Chicago to bring back the large cup the facility has earned.

Though Sankey and Copes are still trying to figure out how to actually bring the large trophy to Maryland, they will make sure it makes its way to its new home at Fort Meade -- one way or another.

"We're bringing it back," Sankey said. "It's ours."

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