By Mr James Brabenec (IMCOM)June 23, 2011
FORT SILL, Okla. -- Team Sill gathered June 15 to dedicate the new $9.8 million Staff Sgt. Juan Garcia Dining Facility to a Soldier whose service included both branches of the Fires Center of Excellence.
Garcia began his Army career as a cannon crew member for A Battery, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Field Artillery here. He then moved on to Camp Hovey, Republic of Korea, where he served as a Bradley commander with B Battery, 5th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery.
He deployed in August 2004 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom to Habbaniyah, Iraq and was killed in action April 30, 2005, when the Bradley Fighting Vehicle he commanded came under attack in Khaladiyah, Iraq. His decorations included the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the Army Commendation Medal.
"Staff Sergeant Garcia was a unique warfighter who represented the best in all of us by serving his country both as an FA and an ADA artilleryman; he truly was the embodiment of today's Fires Soldier," said Col. Daniel Garcia [no relation], 31st ADA commander and speaker at the ceremony.
The ADA commander called Garcia a special, ready and vigilant Soldier who fell in combat while serving his country, and one who understood that serving during a time of war was the right thing to do.
"He was faithfully dedicated to his Soldiers' well-being, his family and his country," said Colonel Garcia.
Guadalupe Garcia, the staff sergeant's widow; Maj. Gen. David Halverson, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general; and Colonel Garcia then unveiled a plaque in Sergeant Garcia's honor near the facility's entrance.
His name will be linked to the 30,000-square-foot dining facility that can seat up to 570 diners. The kitchen that supports this facility can produce up to 1,800 people during one meal and should average about 4,500 meals served daily. The modern facility, part of the Base Realignment and Closure 2005 transformation, offers improved capabilities compared to previous dining facilities, but Colonel Garcia said the design is something special and unique as the Soldier it is dedicated to. The staff sergeant was known as a huge sports fan, and so, the interior is decorated with life-size posters of pro sports stars and pennants and flags of professional and college football and baseball teams.
"This dining facility is designed to honor the courage and sacrifices of our finest Soldiers and their families by giving us a place to go, to step away from our daily stresses and enjoy the great food and decor that's inside while building camaraderie," said the colonel. "You can feel it as soon as you walk inside and sit down that here something is different."
Jonathan Williams, installation food program manager, said the DFAC will serve all the traditional foods associated with the Army and offer some of the Fuel the Soldier fare to give Soldiers another dining option. He said this isn't a requirement, but something Fort Sill elected to do. The facility is run by a staff of 105 Soldiers and 30 contract employees.
When two starship DFACS open around mid-August, Fort Sill's eight dining facilities will include one renovated facility and four built in the last two years.
Williams said the Garcia DFAC replaces the Guns and Rockets dining facility that was 30 years old.
Gone are the days of limited space and equipment restricting menu choices for Soldiers. The new facility includes a takeout area and specialty bars serving pasta, stir fry, pizza, ice cream, hot sandwiches and salads. Soldiers may also choose from a short order or main line. Throughout the serving area food items include Fuel the Soldier placards that inform diners of food choices that provide the best nutrition.
"The new dining hall gives us a capacity of about 1,000 additional seats and provides our cooking staff with all the modern equipment that Guns and Rockets could not accommodate," he said. "This increased capability will help ensure we continue to meet the food service needs of Fort Sill's growing mission."
Williams added he is delighted with the staff and said they are doing a great job serving Fort Sill Soldiers and other customers who eat there.
Colonel Garcia said the goal of the new facility is to "create a location where people can go to refuel and regenerate, a place for future celebrations, and a place to create great memories.