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Cooks Serve Thousands of Thanksgiving Meals in Iraq

By Staff Sgt. Raymond Piper, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORWARD OPERATING BASE PROSPERITY, Iraq, Nov. 25, 2005 – It was an early-morning mission for the food specialists here: prepare a Thanksgiving feast for soldiers deployed more than 3,000 miles from home.

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Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Multinational Force Iraq commander, talks with Task Force Baghdad soldiers during the evening Thanksgiving meal Nov. 24 at the Rock of the Marne Sports Oasis Dining Facility. Casey, the Army's top general in Iraq, joined the soldiers in Baghdad as they feasted on turkey, ham, prime rib and all the trimmings. Photo by Sgt. Andrew Miller, USAthe trimmings. Photo by Sgt. Andrew Miller, USA
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Starting at 1 a.m., the soldiers and civilians who work in the dining facility began to give it a new look. The inside of the dining facility was changed to give Task Force Baghdad soldiers a very different dining experience from they find day-to-day. Displays made of food - such as a gingerbread model of the palace in which the soldiers were eating, ice sculptures and other decorations - adorned the facility. A soldier dressed as a pilgrim and an interpreter dressed as an American Indian greeted the soldiers as they came in.

"The meal was excellent. It definitely took you away from Baghdad," said Army Sgt. Timothy Hartung, an engineer with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Brigade Combat Team. "The meal really showed that the staff cares about making us feel like we're at home."

The dining facility staff expected at least 4,000 people and prepared a virtual cornucopia of Thanksgiving favorites.

"We put a lot of emphasis on Thanksgiving, because it's one of the biggest meals of the year and it's a way for us to say thanks to the soldiers for what they do every day," said Clyde Randolph, dining facility supervisor.

Cooks prepared 2,500 pounds of turkey, 1,200 pounds of prime rib, as well as ham hocks, a whole pig, 500 pounds of Cornish hens, 600 pounds of roasted ham, 700 pounds of collard greens, 800 pounds of mashed potatoes, 600 pounds of corn on the cob, 750 pounds of dressing and 2,500 pies.

"We asked quite a few soldiers what they wanted for Thanksgiving. A lot (of them) wanted ham hocks, collard greens, pumpkin pie and pecan pie, so we made a big effort to make sure we had all those things today," Randolph said.

Thanksgiving is a day for many to spend time with their families and loved ones when they are at home and the staff wanted to create the same feeling here. "They're away from their families and this is a home away from home, so we wanted them to feel like they're at home and give them what their mama would fix," Randolph said.

(Army Staff Sgt. Raymond Piper is assigned to the 4th Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)

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Multinational Force Iraq

Click photo for screen-resolution imageSoldiers make their way through the serving line as they start their Thanksgiving meal Nov. 24 at Forward Operating Base Prosperity in Iraq. Photo by Spc. Dan Balda, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageCivilian food specialists prepare the 750 pounds of dressing served Nov. 24 during the Thanksgiving meal at Forward Operating Base Prosperity in Iraq. Photo by Spc. Dan Balda, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Multinational Force Iraq commander, chats with Sgt. Terral Lassiter, Headquarters and Headquarters Support Company, Special Troops Battalion, during the Nov. 24 evening Thanksgiving meal at the Rock of the Marne Sports Oasis Dining Facility. Casey, the Army's top general in Iraq, joined the soldiers in Baghdad as they feasted on turkey, ham, prime rib and all the trimmings. Photo by Sgt. Andrew Miller, USA  
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