FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Dining facilities are competing to bring Fort Jackson Soldiers and families the best culinary experience this Thanksgiving. The Best Decorated Dining Facility Competition benefits the Soldiers and also the dining facility staff said Robert Cook, a contest judge with Directorate of Logistics.

"Thanksgiving is the Army's big day for the Soldiers. You might not always have a big crowd for Christmas, but you will for Thanksgiving," Cook said. "That's when the food service personnel get to show off their expertise and all of the things they've learned at culinary schools or different training."

Each dining facility selects a theme for their decorations and prepares a traditional Thanksgiving menu for the team of three judges to sample.

"Last year we saw an NFL theme and they had a football field in the dining facility. It was very creative," Cook said. "This year, the Drill Sergeant School had a Mayflower theme and their special thing was the time and effort they put into their display. They actually built a ship and did the historical research about the Mayflower and the people who sailed on it."

The facilities can win honors in four different categories: Best Decorated, Most Original, Best
Thanksgiving and Best Culinary Display. The winners will receive trophies presented by the post commander.

Thanksgiving decoration themes will differ at each facility on post and are determined by the dining facility staff.

"This year our theme is 'Thanking the American Farmer,'" said Gregory Anderson, the manager of the 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment Dining Facility. "No one thinks of the farmer that gets up at 3 a.m. to take care of animals and does all of the things that need to be done in order to make sure people have what they need. Farms are an important part of our lives."

Anderson and his staff will also be preparing a special carving station for Soldiers this year as part of their menu.

"We're doing a beef roast steamship round in a carving station. It is 300 pounds of roast and it takes about eight hours to cook in the oven."

Anderson and his staff of 80 feed approximately 1.200 Soldiers each day during the basic training cycle. He said that he enjoys every part of this competition that he has been participating in for the last seven years. "I enjoy the whole thing; doing the displays and preparing the food,"

Anderson said. "But the look on the Soldiers' faces when they come through to see it for the first time, that's amazing."