ASC prepares for Christmas dinner, decorations, and esprit de corps

By Jon Micheal Connor, ASC Public AffairsDecember 19, 2023

ASC prepares for Christmas dinner, decorations, and esprit de corps
1 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Chief Warrant Officer 5 Curtis Steineke, food adviser, Program Development and Services, Support Operations, U.S. Army Sustainment Command, updates his white board to keep track of all food operations within the command’s responsibilities to include Christmas and Thanksgiving meal in the Army’s Warrior Restaurants. (Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, ASC Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: Jon Connor) VIEW ORIGINAL
Christmas at Forward Operating Base Loyalty
2 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Looking back one Christmas to Dec. 25, 2008, at Forward Operating Base Loyalty, Beladiyat, eastern Baghdad, Iraq, with Army Soldiers from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, eating a festive dinner. The menu for Christmas is placed at the entrance for all to read before they reach the food line. (Photo by Joshua Lowery, Joint Combat Camera Center Iraq) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL
ASC prepares for Christmas dinner, decorations, and esprit de corps
3 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Derrick Wilson with 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, serves roast beef to a Soldier for Christmas dinner on Forward Operating Base Rushmore, Afghanistan, Dec. 25, 2013. (Photo by Army Cpl. Amber Stephens, 982nd Signal Company) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL
ASC prepares for Christmas dinner, decorations, and esprit de corps
4 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Soldiers assigned to the 1st Infantry Division enjoy holiday desserts during Christmas dinner at Boleslawiec, Poland, Dec. 25, 2022. The 1st Inf Div was proudly serving alongside NATO allies and regional security partners to provide combat-credible forces to V Corps, America's forward deployed corps in Europe. (Photo by Sgt. Gavin K. Ching, Army National Guard) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL
ASC prepares for Christmas dinner, decorations, and esprit de corps
5 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Here’s another blast from Christmas past of Soldiers enjoying a Christmas meal Dec. 25, 2010, at Camp Taji, Iraq. The Soldiers are from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, U.S. Division – Center. (Photo by Spc. William K. Ermatinger, 1st Inf Div Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- With the holiday season now in motion, the Army’s traditional Christmas dinner is about to be unleashed as it has for so many years before.

But unlike Santa Claus, who has elves to help him prepare for his annual aerial trek around the world in one night, the Army has no elves to prepare its biggest meal of the year, with Thanksgiving dinner coming in a close second. Perhaps the difference is the difference in spirit between the holidays.

“Christmas Dinner is designed to provide the Soldier a healthy, nutritious meal with the full complement of a traditional holiday meal. Both Thanksgiving and Christmas meals are very similar,” as far as items, said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Curtis Steineke, food adviser, Program Development and Services, Support Operations, U.S. Army Sustainment Command.

ASC’s extensive mission involves a range of tasks that impact all aspects of defense logistics. ASC is responsible for acquiring and moving essential supplies, maintaining crucial equipment, and ensuring that the Army's logistical needs are met efficiently across the globe. ASC carries out numerous logistics services and missions daily worldwide, supporting wherever Soldiers are stationed, including Warrior Restaurants – and holiday meals – at their home stations.

While it’s not certain when the Army officially started serving a Christmas dinner for its personnel, Steineke said it’s been going on for a long time.

He said his research online stated many of the customs we have today were observed in the 1800s, to include Christmas trees and a visit from Santa Claus.

For example, the Christmas celebration at Fort Custer, Montana, can be found by the Army and Navy Journal issue of Jan. 13, 1883. The article is written by Pamela A. Cheney, U.S. Army Military History Institute: .

The Army begins paperwork for Christmas dinner about six months out, Steineke said. “Food service managers will forecast their Warrior Restaurants’ needs and coordinate it with the Army Center of Excellence, Subsistence, and the Defense Logistics Agency to ensure the orders will be filled for the holidays,” he said.

“The Warrior Restaurants submit the orders which are processed through Defense Logistics Agency that has contracts with different wholesale food distributors. The food distributors fulfil the orders and deliver them to the Warrior Restaurants. The Army or ASC does not use any vehicles for that, it is the responsibility of the wholesaler to deliver,” Steinecke said.

ASC doesn’t specifically budget for the holiday meal, Steinecke said, explaining that the food cost comes from a separate budget that ASC is not responsible for.

All totaled, ASC is responsible for 187 Warrior Restaurants, with locations in the U.S., Germany, Italy, Japan, and South Korea.

The Warrior Restaurants that ASC supports are divided into those supporting Training and Doctrine Command, Forces Command, and Army Service Component Commands.

“The TRADOC facilities are the installations that provide Initial Military Training at Fort Moore, Georgia, and Fort Jackson, South Carolina. At those locations ASC is responsible for Full Food Service contracts which include the Warrior Restaurant attendants, along with the kitchen staff, management to cook, prepare and serve the food to the Soldiers,” explained Steineke.

FORSCOM units are at locations like Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Fort Liberty, North Carolina; and Fort Riley, Kansas; and Army Service Component Commands, which include such places as Germany, Japan, and South Korea. These differ in that the tactical units are responsible for the management and food service production.

ASC is only responsible for the dining facility attendant labor portion of the operation, Steineke explained, pointing out ASC also funds life-cycle equipment replacement for both TRADOC and FORSCOM/ASCC locations.

And for those who find themselves in a forward deployed location like Iraq or Syria, either the tactical unit will provide the Christmas dinner, or a contract through ASC’s Logistics Civil Augmentation Program can provide support.

Serving to ensuring the dinner comes off without a hitch are Soldiers with either the military occupational specialty of 92G, a culinary specialist, or a 68M, nutrition care specialist.

Steineke said the 68M Soldiers work in field and fixed hospitals, while the 92G Soldiers can be assigned to a variety of locations in the Army’s tactical units.

“ASC has some 92G positions within the Army Field Support Brigade units, but they are at the senior noncommissioned officer level. The operational units are assigned 92Gs across the Army. As a warrant officer, there is one MOS for Food Service, 922A food service technician. We are spread across the Army in tactical units at the brigade, division, and Corps levels; additionally, ASC has positions at its Army Field Support Brigades as well,” Steineke explained.

And what can attendees expect this year for Christmas dinner? For the most part they will get a “typical” Christmas dinner --turkey, prime rib, ham, stuffing, potatoes… and a variety of pies and other desserts. However, unlike dinner with your family, there is enough food to feed an Army, no pun intended.

“The whole meal is popular due to the amount and variety of food served,” Steineke said. “At Christmas you could find duck or goose added to the menu compared to Thanksgiving.”

And yes, a customer can request seconds. It just depends on how much food was prepared and left over after the initial first-run servings.

And while the Army Center of Excellence Subsistence didn’t track the Christmas dinner food weight from last year, it did offer these figures for ASC Thanksgiving dinners from last year.

• Whole turkey, 39,922 pounds; roast turkey, 85,030 pounds; and, thigh/legs turkey, 8,421 pounds

• Fresh potatoes, 261,221 pounds; dehydrated potatoes, 22,710 pounds; fresh sweet potatoes, 31,113 pounds; sweet potatoes, 8,724 cans

• Various stuffings, 8,444 bags

• Cranberry sauce, 2,725 cans

• Green beans (42,475 frozen bags; 1,470 cans; 4,018 pounds fresh

• Pies (6,930 pumpkin pies; 7,182 sweet potato pies; 6,676 pecan pies, and 5,440 apple pies)

• And, depending on where the Warrior Restaurant is located, regional items are always included.

“Korea is an example where you would add an item like Kimchi to the menu to reflect the local menu, pineapple in Hawaii, and German potato salad or Lebkuchen (gingerbread) [in Germany],” he said.

As in past dinners, nearly everyone in the Army family is invited. The installation senior commander sets the policy on who can utilize the Warrior Restaurants, with most locations allowing military retirees to eat.

Of course, atmosphere also contributes to one’s expectations and feelings about a meal – like going to a restaurant.

To that end, the Army goes all out with ice sculptures, Christmas trees, twinkling lights, and other holiday ornaments in the dining facility to make customers feel at home.

“At Christmas time, you would see decor that reflected Christmas, like holiday bells, ornaments, Santa, etc. They are rolled up into the ASC budget for the food service program” including Christmas trees, snowflakes, and gingerbread houses, Steineke said.

Aside from all this, Christmas dinner is a great deal financially when patrons come to a Warrior Restaurant.

“For fiscal year 23, the holiday meal rates are $8.30 for the Discount Meal Rate and $11.20 for the Standard Meal Rate,” Steineke said. “The Discount Meal Rate is charged to spouses and other dependents of enlisted personnel in pay grades E-1 though E-4. The standard meal rate is charged to all officers and enlisted members receiving an allowance for subsistence.”

Christmas dinner hours will vary by location, he said, as the time is set depending on how the installation or Warrior Restaurant determines the best way to support its location.

“Warrior Restaurants offer the best value for your money. The quality and quantity of the food and the esprit de corps that is on display make it the best option available,” Steineke said.