FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Dec. 1, 2016) -- Tradition and competition thrived at dining facilities across Fort Drum on Nov. 22 as culinary specialists of the 10th Mountain Division (LI) put forth their best efforts to earn the title of the Commanding General's Best Dining Facility for Thanksgiving.

Leaders manned the serving lines in their Army service uniforms as Soldiers flocked to the dining facilities in droves. The menu consisted of items such as honey-glazed rock Cornish hen, rotisserie whole pork, candied sweet potatoes, deviled eggs, cornbread, pumpkin pie, almond cake and, of course, the traditional Thanksgiving turkey.

Sgt. 1st Class Lakeishia Monique Parker, 1st Brigade Combat Team Dining Facility manager, said a month of planning took place among members of her staff and supporting elements. Soldiers were working 15-hour days to create the ultimate feast and presentation. Parker and her staff decided on presenting a tropical island theme.

"Some of us are from the islands, and some of us have been stationed in Hawaii before," Parker said. "So we came up with the Kahlua pig and other things for our Hawaiian Luau theme."

The dining facility managers were granted the creative license to pick the theme, said Sgt. Maj. Michael Youngs, 10th Mountain Division (LI) food service sergeant major. This is Youngs' third year of involvement with this competition. This year, he serves as a special judge; if the judge panel voted in a tie, he would make the tie-breaking call for the winner.

"This is kind of our Super Bowl for the culinary specialists every year," Youngs said. "This is where they get to showcase their talents to their commands and the Soldiers they serve every day."

The heart of this annual tradition revolves around the Soldiers who are away from their Families during the holidays. The Army brings Family to them, and this is highlighted by the leaders who show up in their dress uniforms to serve food to the Soldiers as a way of thanking them for what they do in service to the nation.

Command Sgt. Maj. Kristopher Cook, Fort Drum garrison senior enlisted adviser, manned the serving lines among other leaders, including Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Bannister, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander, and Col. Bryan J. Laske, Fort Drum garrison commander.

"It's a great opportunity for leadership to come out here and give back to the Soldiers and serve the Soldiers," Cook said. "The Soldiers serve us every day."

Cook and his fellow leaders went to all three participating DFACs -- 1st BCT, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade and 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade -- to join in serving the holiday meal.
The competition concluded at the 10th CAB Dining Facility, where the staff was awarded the title of the Commanding General's Best Dining Facility for Thanksgiving for their super hero-themed decor.