What It Takes To Get Deployed Troops Thanksgiving Dinner

Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher T. Crawford gives Spc. Victor W. Stephans his tray of food while serving lunch at the Koele Dining Facility during Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 2013, at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Sinthia Rosario, Task Force Lifeliner Public Affairs

Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher T. Crawford gives Spc. Victor W. Stephans his tray of food while serving lunch at the Koele Dining Facility during Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 2013, at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Sinthia Rosario

By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

Service members who are deployed overseas at Thanksgiving miss out on the precious family time that comes with the holiday, so the Defense Department does its best to try to at least bring them a piece of home in the form of a robust Thanksgiving dinner.  But it’s not an easy task to put all that food together and ship it all over the world.

In case you thought cooking a 15-pound turkey for your family was a lot, try cooking for tens of thousands of hungry troops who are looking forward to a taste of home. This year, the Defense Logistics Agency said it shipped out the following quantities of food:

  • 51,699 pounds of turkey
  • 25,970 pounds of beef
  • 17,130 pounds of ham
  • 706 gallons of eggnog
  • 3,360 pounds of marshmallows

In case your brain can’t quantify that, those things are the equivalent of the following items, respectively:

  • 17 adult female hippos
  • 14 1/2 Smart cars
  • 24 male zebras
  • 45 1/2 full kegs of beer
  • 122 gold bars

That’s (literally) some heavy stuff! And it doesn’t even include all the pies, sweet potatoes and other fixins that go into a Thanksgiving meal.

Chefs prepare hams for service members at a dining facility at an air base in Southwest Asia. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Stanley Coleman

Chefs prepare hams for service members at a dining facility at an air base in Southwest Asia. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Stanley Coleman

So what does it take to get all that food prepared and shipped to service members across the world? A lot of effort, that’s what.

DLA Troop Support started gathering what it needed for the undertaking in May. That meant talking to each service branch to find out how many mouths there were to feed. Since some installations already had some of the needed supplies, they had to find out what items each location specifically needed, too.

Once that’s determined, the collection process begins. Several vendors do the ordering for the DLA, collect all the goods and ship them out to the many bases, airfields and ships that need them, whether it is a remote base in Afghanistan or a ship in the Indian Ocean.

It can take up to three months for the supplies to arrive at some of the most remote locations, so the shipments have to be monitored closely since a lot of the items – including the most vital part of the meal, the turkey – are temperature-sensitive.

“The turkeys, they come in frozen containers. They make their way across the ocean and arrive frozen. It’s checked that the temperature is the same the whole way over to make sure the quality is there,” said Anthony Amendolia, a DLA Troop Support customer relationship specialist.

Soldiers with Task Force Lifeliner, Joint Forces Command – United Assistance dive into one of the many Thanksgiving pies and desserts offered in the dining facility at brigade support area in Buchanan, Liberia, Nov. 27, 2014. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Mary Mittlesteadt, 101st Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs

Soldiers with Task Force Lifeliner, Joint Forces Command – United Assistance dive into one of the many Thanksgiving pies and desserts offered in the dining facility at brigade support area in Buchanan, Liberia, Nov. 27, 2014. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Mary Mittlesteadt

The majority of the meal comes from the U.S., except for produce and dairy products that have short shelf lives. In that case, they come from the countries in or near where the troops are stationed.

“We want to make sure our service men and women, wherever they are, are eating the exact same foods they would be eating if they were home. We want them to feel like they are home when they’re eating their Thanksgiving meal,” Amendolia said.

It’s something the troops are definitely thankful for.

“I just recently heard from somebody who came back from Afghanistan who said that no matter where they are in Afghanistan and how miserable it can be sometimes, there’s one thing they look forward to – sitting down and having a great meal they’re used to eating,” Amendolia said.

And that makes all the effort worthwhile.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our service members!

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