Leaders across post demonstrated the time-honored Army tradition of serving Thanksgiving meals to Soldiers Nov. 24-25.
It is also a time when dining facilities across Fort Jackson compete in a decoration contest in celebration of Thanksgiving and the start of the holiday season.
Fort Jackson Commander Brig. Gen. Patrick R. Michaelis and Post Command Sgt. Maj. Philson Tavernier were joined by their spouse’s Bonnie Michaelis, SueAnn Tavernier and a host of command sergeants majors and DFAC managers as they traveled across post to judge decorations and sample the menu.
While the competition was focused primarily on decorations and presentation of the annual meal, it brought more to trainees completing Basic Combat Training during the holiday.
“For many of you, this is your first Thanksgiving spent away from home, friends, loved ones and your Family,” Michaelis said. “We want to remind you that you are not spending this holiday alone, you are spending it with a different Family … your Army Family.”
Trainees feasted on generous helpings of traditional Thanksgiving fare of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, collard greens and the annual debate between stuffing and dressing.
“I’m from Minnesota … it’s stuffing,” said Pvt. Jakeb Innman, Company D, 369th Adjutant General Battalion. “It’s my favorite part of the meal.”
Innman joined more than 8,000 trainees, Soldiers and their Family members as they filled their plates and fellowshipped with one another. While many would return to training and school, for a few hours they all enjoyed the decorations and each other’s company.
“It’s that feeling you get when you walk in,” said Jonathan Williams, Logistics Readiness Center’s food program manager and competition judge. “It’s that welcoming environment I look for. There has been a lot of good stuff out there (at the DFACs) and the Soldiers are getting good quality food and it feels homey.”
Each facility was judges on a 100 point scale in five categories. Those categories included decorations, food quality and taste, nutritional displays, theme and originality. Some judges such as the Tavernier’s, teamed up to divide and conquer the competition.
“He is in charge of the chicken,” said SueAnn Tavernier.
She judged side dishes while Command Sgt. Maj. Tavernier sampled the varieties of chicken offered at each facility.
“We are getting full trying everything,” Williams said.
Williams also teamed up with a fellow judge to divide and sample specific items at each facility as well. Williams said the turkey was his key item and favorite holiday meal dish.
At the end of the day, of the seven facilities that competed only one could be the champion. The winners of the contest will receive trophies from Michaelis in a ceremony today.
“I love what I see,” Michaelis said of the competition. “I see a commitment from the people that work here in the dining facility, I see a commitment from the leaders here to be a part of it and I look forward to trying all the food.”