Traditional Holiday Meal Will Replace Field Rations for Many Troops
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 21, 2007 When troops stationed in the Middle East sit down to Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, the turkey won’t come in a brown field rations pouch.
Defense Supply Center Philadelphia's Subsistence Division is responsible for making sure each dining facility has all the food it needs to provide a traditional holiday meal like this one in 2006. Defense Department photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Thanks to the efforts of the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia’s efforts, troops stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Dubai and Djibouti will enjoy a traditional holiday meal.
“Historically, Thanksgiving dinner is one of the most family-oriented meals that there is,” said Ray Miller, director of subsistence for DSCP, the agency that supplies meals to the military worldwide. “When you are deployed and you’re not with (family), … it’s a taste of home wherever you are.”
Hundreds of thousands of troops will dine on turkey, ham, cranberry sauce, assorted pies and more. While this all sounds very “Norman Rockwell” normal, there’s nothing normal about the amount of food needed to feed that many troops.
The employees sent 342,382 pounds of turkey alone. More than 15,000 containers of stuffing mix and about 13,000 containers of white potatoes will join nearly 120,000 pounds of shrimp and a combined total of 249,357 pounds of ham and beef, as well.
“It would be like 100 tractor-trailers pulling up outside your house to deliver Thanksgiving Dinnerdinner,” Miller said, describing just how much food was sent to the Middle East for the dinner.
And at the back of the very last tractor-trailer would be the one thing needed to finish the meal in fine holiday tradition: nearly 163,500 pies.
As for those with no access to a dining hall, they’re not destined to eat the same old everyday field rations. They, too, will get a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving Day.
“We … have provided a special ration meal called an URG-E (Unitized Group Ration – Express),” Miller said. “It won’t be the turkey, but it’ll be a turkey meal. It’s our attempt to at least try to get something to the folks that are on the far end of the supply chain.”
That effort doesn’t stop with the supply center personnel. The dining facility staffs go above and beyond, often working on their own time, to make decorations to ensure the day is as special as possible.
“Each dining facility has its own theme chosen by the manager,” said Army Sgt. Maj. Terry L. Stewart, a Bridgehampton, N.Y., native and food service sergeant major for Multinational Division Baghdad.
Adding a competitive element to the decorating helps to reward the DFAC workers for the time and effort they spend preparing their crafts. Each command with a dining facility judges the decorations, and medals are awarded.
Sharing a traditional holiday meal that’s usually a family affair can bring servicemembers closer together Stewart noted.
“It humbles me,” the sergeant major said. “Even though we are away from our families at home, those of us here are family, and we come together in fellowship and give thanks for being alive.
“It’s especially rewarding to see the soldiers smile and the joy in their faces when they come through,” he added.
The total cost of the Thanksgiving feast comes in at just under $5,410,000. The Christmas meal, which parallels the Thanksgiving menu, will cost about $300,000 less and already has been shipped to distribution points awaiting orders, which will start coming in during the first 10 days of December.
The Defense Supply Center Philadelphia supplies $12.4 billion worth of food, clothing and textiles, medicines, medical equipment, construction equipment and supplies, and services to servicemembers, their families and other federal customers worldwide. The center is a part of the Defense Logistics Agency.
(Army Pfc. April Campbell, 27th Public Affairs Detachment, contributed to this report.)