• Col. Eric Schacht, left, 5th Armored Brigade commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Johnny Baldwin, 5th Armored Brigade command sergeant major, continue the Army tradition of serving young troops Thanksgiving dinner at McGregor Range, N.M., Nov. 22. (Photo by Capt. John A. Brimley, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West, Public Affairs)

    5th AR leaders serve Thanksgiving meal to joint warfighters

    Col. Eric Schacht, left, 5th Armored Brigade commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Johnny Baldwin, 5th Armored Brigade command sergeant major, continue the Army tradition of serving young troops Thanksgiving dinner at McGregor Range, N.M., Nov. 22. (Photo...

  • Air Force sergeants, left to right, Garey Watson, Henry Smith, Rodney Jones Jr. and Trovaris Baskin, 623rd Security Forces Squadron, Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, Alaska, pose as they enjoy Thanksgiving with their "Family away from Family." The Airmen share 11 deployments among the four of them. (Photo by Capt. John A. Brimley, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West, Public Affairs)

    5th AR leaders serve Thanksgiving meal to joint warfighters

    Air Force sergeants, left to right, Garey Watson, Henry Smith, Rodney Jones Jr. and Trovaris Baskin, 623rd Security Forces Squadron, Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, Alaska, pose as they enjoy Thanksgiving with their "Family away from Family." The...

  • Brig. Gen. Mike Navrkal, left, Division West deputy commanding general, enjoys a Thanksgiving meal with deploying Soldiers at McGregor Range, N.M., Nov. 22. (Photo by Capt. John A. Brimley, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West, Public Affairs)

    5th AR leaders serve Thanksgiving meal to joint warfighters

    Brig. Gen. Mike Navrkal, left, Division West deputy commanding general, enjoys a Thanksgiving meal with deploying Soldiers at McGregor Range, N.M., Nov. 22. (Photo by Capt. John A. Brimley, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West, Public Affairs)

  • Maj. Benjamin Kavanagh, left, training officer with 5th Armored Brigade's Task Force Rampant, and Lt. Col. Aaron Dorf, Task Force Rampant commander, serve Thanksgiving dinner to troops at McGregor Range, N.M., Nov. 22. (Photo by Capt. John A. Brimley, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West, Public Affairs)

    5th AR leaders serve Thanksgiving meal to joint warfighters

    Maj. Benjamin Kavanagh, left, training officer with 5th Armored Brigade's Task Force Rampant, and Lt. Col. Aaron Dorf, Task Force Rampant commander, serve Thanksgiving dinner to troops at McGregor Range, N.M., Nov. 22. (Photo by Capt. John A. Brimley...

  • Mobilized troops partake in a holiday tradition as they enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with Brig. Gen. Mike Navrkal, center, Division West deputy commanding general, at McGregor Range, N.M., Nov. 22. (Photo by Capt. John A. Brimley, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West, Public Affairs)

    5th AR leaders serve Thanksgiving meal to joint warfighters

    Mobilized troops partake in a holiday tradition as they enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with Brig. Gen. Mike Navrkal, center, Division West deputy commanding general, at McGregor Range, N.M., Nov. 22. (Photo by Capt. John A. Brimley, 5th Armored Brigade...

McGREGOR BASE CAMP, N.M.-- On most other days, 5th Armored Brigade leaders manage training schedules, lead training meetings and train joint warfighters for their upcoming deployments, but on Thanksgiving Day, those leaders donned serving aprons and chef's hats to provide service members a traditional Thanksgiving feast.

"It's our opportunity to thank the Soldiers for all they do," said Col. Eric Schacht, 5th Armored Brigade commander.

Commanders, sergeants major and other leaders from Task Forces Stallion and Rampant served the holiday meal in an act rich in tradition and appreciation for those service members dedicated to carrying out the visions and missions of their leaders.

"Seeing them (here) is very respectable," said Air Force Sgt. Rodney Jones Jr., 623rd Security Forces Squadron, Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, Alaska. "They're not with their Families, even though they could, and we're not with ours, and they still came out to serve."

Every year, the 5th Armored Brigade trains thousands of troops across the services, including Air Force and Navy service members.

The distance created by deployments is an experience many service members share. No matter how many holidays these joint warfighters have missed, being away from Family doesn't get any easier.

"It's still so hard," said Air Force Sgt. Henry Smith, 623rd Security Forces Squadron, Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson. "It's what we do."

But, for Smith, it's times like this that allow him to bond with his fellow Airmen to cope with being away from his wife and kids.

"They're our Family away from Family," Smith said. "When one person hurts, we're all there for each other."

Creating the familial bond with strangers is a part of the mission, and it is these bonds that make holidays like Thanksgiving away from home bearable.

"It's hard to explain to Family why you do this," said Brig. Gen. Mike Navrkal, deputy commanding general of First Army Division West. "This is such a unique experience and, to explain that to Family, is difficult to understand."

That experience is the heartache of being away from Family for a deployment and simultaneously cherishing the time of being with your brothers- and sisters-in-arms.

The feel and emotion of the Thanksgiving holiday was passed along with every slice of turkey and pie.

"I've been doing this all 26 years I've been in," Schacht said. "It's our chance to show our young Soldiers we care about them and respect them to help make this the best Army in the world."

Page last updated Thu November 29th, 2012 at 15:23