CAMP HENRY, South Korea -- When you're known as the "Heavy Hitters," there's an expectation that you don't just do your job -- you make an impact and excel at it.
The newly-formed 541st Field Feeding Company embraced that belief as they hosted Thanksgiving Dinner for the Area IV community at the Sustainer Grill Dining Facility, Nov. 28.
"This is their Super Bowl," said Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy A. Walton, senior enlisted leader, 498th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion (CSSB). "Today was their opportunity to show our community their culinary expertise, and they didn't disappoint."
The CSSB welcomed the 541st to the battalion family earlier this year as part of a Department of the Army initiative to combine the 92G (culinary specialists) into field feeding companies to provide leadership and oversight for dining facilities and field operations to units conducting training and missions off post.
"This unit has brought a new class of support to Area IV," said Lt. Col. Karen Baker, commander, 498th CSSB. "We're lucky to have a great leadership team and experts coming from across multiple U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) environments. They have really raised the bar!"
As the Army transitions from a primary mission of readiness to a top focus on Soldiers, arguably nowhere else is the impact seen better than by the men and women from the Field Feeding Co.
"Phenomenal job today to make this great meal for our Soldiers and families," said Lt. Gen. Michael A. Bills, commanding general, Eighth Army. "This is an outstanding team who has created a fantastic day and an amazing experience for this community."
Bills, along with Command Sgt. Major Jason Schmidt, senior enlisted leader, Eighth Army, and their spouses, traveled to Area IV and joined other command teams in serving dinner to more than 500 guests.
Although leaders served the meal, it was the 541st who planned the event, designed the dining facility and prepared the meal.
"When we chose this occupation, we did so because we take pride in cooking," added Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Mitchell, 541st culinary management NCO. "During the holidays, this is our time to shine, and we just want to make great meals that put smiles on everyone's faces."
Following Wednesday night's dinner service, Mitchell and his team got to work -- staying up all night to prepare a thanksgiving feast that included 12 turkeys, stuffing, multiple desserts, and a cornucopia of side selections for the guests.
"I'm extremely proud of this team," said 1st Sgt. Jeremy Wilson, senior enlisted leader, 541st Field Feeding Co. "We have great NCOs like Sgt. 1st Class Mitchell who motivated this team and were able to plan this during extended hours while overseeing their day-to-day missions, and it's been flawless."
Mitchell admitted he's seen a lot of growth in his team over the past few months as they worked to elevate their skills to bring a taste of home to Area IV.
The official start to the winter holiday season brought the entire community together, including many retirees and current Department of the Army (DA) civilians and families. Leslie Smith, a former senior military spouse and current lead for Army Community Service in Area IV, said the atmosphere and food made her feel like she was back home."
"This is an awesome opportunity for us to share this holiday with our community and the Soldiers who may not have their families here," said Smith. "These Soldiers put their heart into this meal, and you can tell it. It's very special."
Another guest, U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Four (Retired) Jerry Golden and his wife, Soon, reminisced about the many Thanksgiving meals they have had over the years. Golden, who retired after 29 years of active duty service and just completed 20 years of civilian service, said that he and his wife come to Camp Walker or Camp Carroll every year and they're never disappointed.
"They always do an amazing job," said Golden. "I know they work hard and they put in a lot of hours. We're honored to come here and eat their meal."
In addition to DA employees and retirees, leaders expressed their gratitude to be able to share some of the U.S. traditions with their Republic of Korea (ROK) counterparts.
"Events like this are made even better when we can share them with our Korean Nationals and ROK Army friends and families," said Command Sgt. Major. Alan J. Cline, senior enlisted leader, USAG Daegu. "Sharing our cultures and experiencing these traditions together helps make the Alliance even stronger."
As dinner service wrapped, Mitchell took a few moments to reflect on the past 20 hours and admitted that the passion he has for cooking is only matched by the pride and appreciation he has for his team. "We're tired, but we're feeling great," he said. "Lots of smiles today, and I know this team improved the overall morale of everyone here in Area IV."