FORT LEE, Va. (Oct. 21, 2009) -- The largest Army-owned dining facility is officially open for business.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Oct. 14, to celebrate the completion and opening of the 75,000-square-foot facility located on the new Ordnance Campus.

It was the first ribbon-cutting ceremony held on the $700 million campus comprised of more than 30 new buildings, many still under construction.

Members of the post leadership, local dignitaries and about 75 others were on hand for the event. Col. Michael Morrow, U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Lee commander, said the opening provided the opportunity to celebrate the facility, but more importantly, to recognize the Soldiers who will dine there.

"This is the first time we get to really welcome all the ordnance Soldiers who are coming here from the 61st Ordnance Brigade," he said after the ceremony. "They will benefit from a state-of-the-art dining facility which will feed them three meals a day and help sustain them through their training."

The 61st Ord. Bde. provides command, control and personnel services for all cadre and students assigned to the school.

The dining facility is a two-story structure that features a large, first floor kitchen, elevators to transport food to the second level and expansive dining areas on both floors. It cost $29 million to build and another million to furnish and equip.

This is the largest Army-owned DFAC, said Lisa Babotas, Norfolk District's Center of Standardization Office, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. There is a larger DFAC under construction at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, which is a U.S. Air Force funded project.

The facility has a staff of more than 30 workers who will serve more than 3,600 meals three times a day when the campus is at full capacity.

Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Tolbert, the 61st's top noncommissioned officer, said the facility will go a long way in helping to prepare Soldiers for training.

"This ribbon-cutting ceremony marks an important milestone," he said, noting all the hard work to bring the dining facility to fruition. "It's a milestone that is well-deserved, and it will more than meet the needs of the Soldier."

Tolbert also said a good dining facility can do wonders for Soldiers' morale.

"The Soldiers think that this is pretty much heaven for them," he said. "They are really enjoying the meals, and we are relieved that they are."

The dining facility opened for business nearly three weeks ago when the first ordnance students - roughly 500 of them - arrived on campus from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

Col. Ed Gully, the post's senior Base Realignment and Closure engineer, said the facility was designed and built in only 18 months, and the fact that it was ready when students arrived spoke of the hard work by all those involved.

"Our timelines were very tight due to linkages (to operations) at other installations including Aberdeen Proving Ground (Md.) and Fort Monmouth (N.J.)," he said during his speech. "I know that there were some who were skeptical on whether or not we could make and hit these required milestones, given both the scale of the construction and the complexity of the moves that we are undertaking. On behalf of the entire team, I'm proud to say the required milestones were met as a result of the tremendous team effort."

The dining facility, located on the Ordnance Campus, is part of the BRAC plan that mandated the relocation of the Ordnance Center and Schools from Aberdeen and Redstone Arsenal, Ala., to Fort Lee.

The Ordnance School is situated on about 300 acres located north of Route 36. Construction on the numerous campus facilities is scheduled for completion in 2011.