By SHARONDA PEARSON, Fort Jackson LeaderNovember 24, 2009
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- By this time Wednesday, employees at post dining facilities will have spent the better part of this week and last preparing nearly 7,000 pounds of turkey, 4,000 pounds of ham, 1,400 pounds of shrimp and 1,500 pies.
But James Worthy, the supervisor at the 187th Ordnance Battalion dining facility, said the around-the-clock preparations are worth it to bring the Soldiers a taste of home.
"Soldiers deserve good food," Worthy said. "It is important for them to get a home cooked meal for Thanksgiving. That is why we make sure to cook all our food from scratch."
Employees at the post's 12 dining facilities start preparing for the meals about a month before Thanksgiving. Preparations include facility decorations, worker uniform and costume preparations, unit participation in development of the facility theme, coordinating meal periods and command servers, specialty cake decorating and ice-carvings.
While many of the battalions serve Thanksgiving meals on the actual holiday, some serve the meals early to allow Soldiers, such as those who may be graduating, a chance to spend the holiday with their families.
Cheryl Thomas, a cook who has been serving Soldiers at Fort Jackson holiday meals for more than 18 years, agreed.
"I enjoy making sure that the food is ready for the Soldiers during the holiday," Thomas said. "It is exciting."
As part of Army tradition, the menu - consisting of nearly three dozen items - will be served by commanders, unit staff and senior noncommissioned officers of each company.
Lt. Col. Darrell Aubrey, 187th Ordnance Battalion commander, said he would be front-and-center to serve his Soldiers, and would never miss the chance to let them know he cares during the holidays.
"Serving the Soldiers is part of the Army tradition, and something that has been done since I was a young Soldier. It lets them know that we care about them and also builds camaraderie," Aubrey said. "For many of them, this is their first time away from home for Thanksgiving. Serving them lets them know that their pseudo mom and dad, (the Army), cares about them on Thanksgiving."
Worthy said good food and service is important, but ambiance is another essential part in making the Soldiers feel comfortable during their Thanksgiving meal.
"It looks like a different dining facility once we get done decorating," Worthy said. "It is a time for the Soldiers to eat a good meal in peace and relax."
Post-wide, more than 15,000 Soldiers are served during the Thanksgiving holiday, and they are often joined by retirees, cadre and other members of the Fort Jackson community.
Thomas said the countless hours of hard work are appreciated by the Soldiers.
"Typical responses (from Soldiers) are we really enjoy the meal. It's almost as good as my mom's."