Fort Eustis, Va. - In a secret undisclosed location on Fort Eustis, Soldiers from the 597th Transportation Brigade work stealthily on their submission to this year's Joint Base Langley-Eustis Best Christmas Card Competition. Their goal is to prevent their opponents from gaining an advantage and insight into their artistic masterpiece.
The annual event is in its 16th year and is hosted by Joint Base Langley-Eustis Army Community Service and serves as an opportunity for JBLE military units to share the Christmas spirit with the local community.
"I've spent much of my Army career here at Fort Eustis," said Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie Giles, a Training and Readiness Non Commissioned Officer for the 597th Transportation Brigade. "This really is a big deal, we have civilians and family members who come from all around just to see the yearly displays."
The Christmas cards are hand painted on 4-foot by 8-foot sheets of plywood and will be prominently displayed along the fence line of the Fort Eustis Transportation Museum.
"This is a great opportunity for us to share with the community and show that we are one with them," Giles said.
The 597th Transportation Brigade is but one of 15 JBLE organizations participating in the competition.
Of the four Soldiers working on the project, it was unanimously agreed that Sgt. 1st Class Jermaine Wine, an Operations Sergeant for the brigade, is the brains behind the operation.
They also agreed that he is to blame should their submission not win.
Wine didn't seem concerned about the responsibility they've heaped on his shoulders.
"My plan is to show the judges what 'right' looks like," Wine said. "We've got all the elements anyone could want in a winning Christmas card."
"We wanted something that not only represents Christmas, but also carries over into the New Year," Giles added. "In the past, people create cards that have military vehicles and things on them, but we chose to go the more traditional route.
1st Lt. Jeffrey Miller, an Operations Officer for the brigade, explained that their Christmas card also reflects elements of patriotism, esprit de corps along with holiday spirit which will give them the upper hand with the judges.
"A panel of five judges will evaluate the Christmas cards on four criteria," said Army Community Service representative, Liezel Bambao. "They will be judged on effort and originality, design, creativity and community message."
Sgt. 1st Class Tonia Montgomery, also an Operations Sergeant for the brigade, preferred doing the touchup and detail painting on the project.
"I've got four kids and definitely plan on bringing them out to see what we've created," said Montgomery as she helped hang the art work.
The theme for this year's Christmas card competition is "Every Day is a Gift, Let's Celebrate!"
The Christmas cards will be on display along the Washington Boulevard entrance to Fort Eustis until Jan. 5.
First, second and third place winners will be announced in a ceremony at the JBLE Transportation Museum auditorium Dec. 12 at 2 p.m.