JOINT MULTINATIONAL READINESS CENTER, Germany – Service members, civilians and Families gathered in the chilly autumn air to enjoy the figurative cornucopia offered as part of the Warrior Sports Café’s Thanksgiving luncheon Nov. 22.
Leadership from the Joint Multinational Readiness Center; U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria; 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment; and U.S. Army Health Clinic Hohenfels stood with serving utensils in hand to dole out helpings of turkey, gravy, potatoes and more to hungry community members.
The leaders dressed in their service uniforms or suit and tie, talked with the service members, civilians, spouses and their young children, asking which foods they wanted and how much they wanted on their plates.
“This is a longstanding Army tradition, where one time a year – Thanksgiving – the leaders, we get dressed up to show how much we care,” said Col. Kevin A. Poole, commander of USAG Bavaria. “It is a symbol of why we exist as leaders: to ultimately serve those that we lead.”
After serving the initial onrush of diners, the first group of leaders handed off tongs, ladles, knives and carving forks to leaders with the headquarters and headquarters companies of both 1-4 Inf. Regt. and the JMRC Operations Group. Poole, garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Sebastian A. Camacho, Hohenfels garrison manager Patrick J. Rothbauer, and JMRC leadership greeted Gold Star Family members and local Bürgermeisters (mayors) from neighboring communities as they all broke bread together.
“Building our host nation partnerships is very important,” said Poole. “Critical to that is inviting them in to where we live and showing them some of our customs and traditions, and Thanksgiving being one of the biggest ones for us that they don’t necessarily celebrate in Germany.”
This was the second Thanksgiving Christian Graf, Bürgermeister from Markt Hohenfels, had taken part of.
“I’m happy to be here with all the guys I know,” said Graf. “It’s a good day when we can meet not only here on post, it’s good when we can meet off post.”
The mayors and other guests ate the traditional Thanksgiving turkey, and they also had portions of braised duck, buttery lobster tail, honey-glazed baked ham, and steamship round of beef. Diners picked up broccoli with cheese sauce, corn on the cob, Southern style greens, green beans casserole, cornbread muffins, candied sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, baked macaroni and cheese, cornbread dressing and savory bread dressing. A variety of pies, cookies, carrot cup cakes with cream cheese frosting, and cheesecake with strawberry topping awaited diners as dessert.
Timothy Haskill, acting manager of the Warrior Sports Café, said that of the 52 turkeys, 60 ducks, 120 pounds of lobster, 150 pounds of ham, 130 pounds of beef and more, the meat prepared by the staff weighed in at three quarters of a standard ton. The dining facility served 927 customers, a figure three shy of their standing record of 930 customers, made Thanksgiving 2021. Haskill added one further anecdotal figure:
“I didn’t see one dissatisfied customer,” he said.
The DFAC team began planning for Thanksgiving in February, when they were working out how much food to order. Given how rarely the DFAC serves duck – only twice a year – it was popular and one of the only entrées to run out.
The team also ran into trouble when one of their ovens went out of service. Haskill attributed the success of the DFAC during its busiest day of the year to the experience and professionalism of the staff.
“They knocked it out of the park because they do that every day,” said Haskill. “Thanksgiving they just get to show how awesome they truly are, they put the effort in.”
The event was also a success from the diners’ perspective as well.
“The lobster was pretty good,” said Sgt. Joana Herrera, JMRC, who attended the event with one of her coworkers. “I had some of the turkey, the magic peas, and the green beans really hit – they really hit the spot.
“We got to sit with other people we didn’t know, we had small conversation,” continued Herrera. “So it was enjoyable.”
Long after the first diners left, community members continued queueing in the chilly air under overcast skies. Armed Forces Network Bavaria took shout-outs and song requests from the crowd and held informal polls on the correct pronunciation of “pecan” and more.
Additional Thanksgiving meals took place across USAG Bavaria, including at Tower Barracks and Rose Barracks.