FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- The dining facility at the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant School at Fort Jackson took the top spot in IMCOM Atlantic's Civilian Garrison category in the annual Philip A. Connelly Awards.

Established in 1968, the awards are named for the late Philip A. Connelly, a former International Food Service Executives Association president who championed the organization's sponsorship of the awards. Categories in the annual awards include Battalion and Brigade, Dining Facilities Small and Large, Field Kitchens, National Guard and Army Reserves.

"It's like winning the Super Bowl for the staff," said Linda Watson, manager of the Drill Sergeant School dining facility.

"They talk about it every day." John Nelums, quality assurance evaluator with the Directorate of Logistics, said the dining facility has become a subject matter expert in the Initial Military Training menu.

Established in 2011, by the Training and Doctrine Command Soldier Fueling Initiative, IMT menu standards encourage healthy meal choices and limit fast-food meals to Sundays only.

"We were the Army's test bed for the Initial Military Training menu here at Fort Jackson," Nelums said. "We've established the baseline for Basic Combat Training in the Army as Soldiers further their careers and go to different units. The intent is to ensure that every Soldier is capable of making the proper nutritional choices, not only as they live day to day, but as they progress in their careers and in life."

Nelums said these habits can have benefits later in life, as well.

"Hopefully, some of the health issues that are prevalent now won't rear their head later in life," Nelums said.

In April, judges visited the facility to review its standards of food preparation, administration, utilization of personnel, and ensuring that the facility's mission is reached on a daily basis.

"When you win an award like this, there's a lot of prestige behind it," said Tommy Jenkins, assistant manager of the Drill Sergeant School dining facility. "You can expect to see a lot more dignitaries visiting these facilities, but we're up to the challenge of that. When you're a champion of anything, you have to uphold a certain standard. People expect to see the same standards they see in October throughout the year. We want to keep it that way."

Nelums said the next leg of the competition pits the international region winners against each other. He said the final winner will be announced at the end of the year.

"We want to win it again and again," said Robert Cook, a quality assurance evaluator with the Directorate of Logistics. "We're competing against facilities from throughout the world. We're in it to win it."

In 2008, the 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment DFAC was named best large garrison DFAC Armywide by the Phillip A. Connelly Awards, the first time in the program's history the post has received this honor. The Philip A. Connelly Awards Program is governed by the Army Food Service Program, and co-sponsored by the International Food Service Executives Association and the Department of the Army.