FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. - Soldiers, Friends and Families of 1st Brigade Combat Team "Bastogne", 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) came together to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal here at Snipes Dining Facility.
The Army Thanksgiving meal is a tradition within the Army, and this year the culinary experts and fellow Soldiers worked hard immediately following a successful rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, Louisiana.
Sgt. 1st Class Christian Cenzal, dining facility manager, 426 Brigade Support Battalion "Taskmasters", led the culinary Soldiers in planning and organizing the event for the Bastogne Soldiers and Families.
"We started planning and organizing this event right after JRTC," said Cenzal. "This day has been a long time coming. It's been a lot of hard sweat and tears to make this happen."
Within our nation's response to the pandemic, Cenzal had to plan this event and follow the proper safety measures to mitigate the spread of the virus.
At each entrance, a Soldier was strategically placed to take the temperature of everyone entering the DFAC, ensure proper hand washing and limit the amount of personnel that could enter the facility. To ensure the proper social distancing measures took place for the Thanksgiving feast, the battalions assisted by providing their own festive themes to heated outdoor tents for the Soldiers and Families to dine within, ensuring the capacity of the main building was kept to a safe level.
Mitigating the virus in this manner proved to be not only safe but exciting for the visitors who could be seen enjoying the fire pit, taking photos and enjoying their feasts within their respective tents filled with unit pride.
Not only were the battalion tents festive, but the brigade chefs took to a different approach this year with their theme as they chose Monopoly. Every inch of the facility, inside and out, was immaculately decorated based off of the popular American board game.
One Soldier, Spc. William Jones, culinary specialist, Company E, 326 Brigade Engineer Battalion "Sapper Eagles", put his heart into the theme as he dressed as "Uncle Pennybags" better known as the Monopoly guy on the cover of the game.
"I guess it was an easy choice," said Jones. "I was the only one with the suit! It took us three weeks to put this theme together and I couldn't let the team down."
Every year the 101st Abn. Div. upholds the tradition of friendly competition between each brigade deciding who has the best overall Thanksgiving meal, not only consisting of the food that is served but the theme, display and overall style of the dining facility. This is the biggest event of the year for the culinary specialists.
"I'm so proud of the team and all the hard work the Soldiers put in to this event," said Cenizal. "They scored a 10 out of 10 to me. They are outstanding. Win or lose we won regardless to me. I'm so proud of them."
The Army style Thanksgiving is not only a staple of tradition and an important competition to the Soldiers who put their culinary skills on display, but it means a lot to the Soldiers and Families. This meal served each year brings each brigade together as a family, and the memories created last forever.
Col. Robert Born, brigade commander, 1st Brigade Combat Team "Bastogne", 101st Abn. Div., is one of those Soldiers who has very fond memories of the Army Thanksgiving and is proud to be a brigade commander ensuring that tradition continues.
"This is my favorite holiday," said Born. "I remember going to the DFAC Thanksgiving in Germany with my father in 1979. This is absolutely my favorite Army tradition.