Hood Herald/CATRINA RAWSON - Spc. Keldrick Owens and Pfc. Delano Taylor of the III Corps and Fort Hood Culinary Arts Team compete during a chef challenge during the second annual III Corps and Fort Hood Culinary Arts Thanksgiving Harvest Presentation Thursday at Fort Hood.

By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Fort Hood Herald

DFAC Thanksgiving: 1st Cav-style

Fort Hood soldiers around the world are preparing for Thanksgiving, and though not everyone can spend the day with their loved ones, the Army is doing what it can to make the holiday special.

Thanksgiving is a big deal at Army dining facilities because it gives food service soldiers a chance to step into the spotlight and show what they can do, said Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Paraday, who leads Thanksgiving meal planning at the 1st Cavalry Division's Operation Iraqi Freedom Dining Facility.

Dining facilities typically decide upon themes and they compete with other across post.

The theme this year at the division's Ironhorse Dining Facility is Thanksgiving around the world. Ironhorse serves the division's 1st and 2nd Brigades.

Soldiers are preparing food from Spanish, West Indian, European and Asian cuisines. For some, it wouldn't be a special holiday meal without bulgogi, so variety is the key to making everyone feel at home, said Sgt. 1st Class Lorne Robbins, who leads Thanksgiving planning at Ironhorse.

His soldiers started work on Thanksgiving displays a week ago and cooking begins today. Food service specialists are working around the clock to prepare more than 1,200 pounds of turkey, 360 pounds of ham, 324 pounds of shrimp, 372 pounds of steamship round, 86 bags of dressing and 72 pounds of collard greens.

Ironhorse, which has a home-style Thanksgiving theme, is preparing to serve about 800 people, Robbins said.

Paraday said officials typically get enough food to feed three to four times the number of those they're expecting for special meals like Thanksgiving. The intent is for everyone to leave just as stuffed as they would if they were home, he said with a smile.

The Operation Iraqi Freedom facility serves the division's 3rd and 4th brigades. With the 4th Brigade deployed to Iraq, family readiness groups are making special efforts to invite the brigade's families to eat dinner together.

First Cavalry dining facilities are open from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursday. Meals cost $7 or less per person. The Always Ready Dining Facility at West Fort Hood serves the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade and the Theodore Roosevelt Dining Facility at Battalion Avenue and 21st Street serves the 41st Fires Brigade.

Celebrating early

The 89th Military Police Brigade, which has two companies deployed, celebrated Thanksgiving as an Army family on Saturday at the Phantom Warrior Center.

The day long event included a staggered schedule for Thanksgiving dinner, arts and crafts for children and a chance to take photos and record holiday messages for deployed soldiers.

The brigade also hosted a canned food drive and those supplies will go toward making holiday food baskets for 89th families.

The event was a great way to thank the brigade soldiers and families for what they do, said Col. Patrick Williams, 89th commander.

For families with deployed soldiers, a brigade-wide event like Saturday's shows they are not alone, Williams said. Their military family is there for them and they are part of the team - "even more so because their loved ones are deployed," he added.

"It is an opportunity for us to be thankful," Williams said later.

Making Thanksgiving more special

The III Corps and Fort Hood Culinary Arts Team hosted its second annual Thanksgiving Harvest Presentation Nov. 18 at Fort Hood. The event, which included displays and live cooking, cake decorating and ice-carving demonstrations, was at the team's Fort Hood headquarters: Building 12007, Old Ironsides Avenue and 33rd Street.

The team, led by Master Sgt. Anthony Roscoe, formed in the summer of 2009 when soldiers from units across post were selected after displaying their knowledge and skills. The team's headquarters, a renovated dining facility, opened in June 2009 and has since hosted a variety of presentations, classes and special meals.

They also provide training - especially during the holiday season - for soldiers at dining facilities across Fort Hood.

The edible sculptures and displays presented Nov. 18 were a preview of the kind of work diners will see tomorrow at dining facilities across post. Chefs and food service specialists use fondant, tallow and chocolate to construct centerpieces that center around their themes.

The holidays also mark the start of the culinary arts team's competition preparation. The team is set to compete early next year at the 36th annual U.S. Army Culinary Arts Competition at Fort Lee, Va. The team walked away with 38 individual and group medals last year, and earned the sixth best installation title and the "Judges' Overall Best Team Display" title.

The competition is the largest culinary contest in the United States, and chefs from all branches of the military vie for top honors in categories like mystery basket cook-offs, ice carving, cake decorating and platter and display preparation.

New team members were selected in July to fill spots vacated by soldiers deploying, leaving Fort Hood or leaving the Army.

The team has decided on a theme - which is a close-kept secret - and holiday preparation helps them train for the highly competitive contest. Last year's theme centered around honoring the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting victims.

Help when needed

Fort Hood's Army Community Service Emergency Food Pantry is available to anyone who has a military ID and needs help putting food on the table.

The pantry, located in The Rivers Building, 761st Tank Battalion Avenue and T.J. Mills Boulevard, provides 100 to 130 families with food each month, said Bridget Sanders, a personal financial readiness specialist. That totals 600 to 800 people, she added.

The pantry isn't just open during the holidays. It provides families with everything from nonperishable food items to baby food to pet food year round, though officials there coordinate special holiday events as donations are given.

Visitors get enough food to last three to four days. Command financial specialists assigned to units across Fort Hood often refer families to the pantry, though people are welcome to contact Sanders on their own.

The circumstances of those who visit the pantry vary, Sanders said. Some mismanage their money and don't have anything left to put food on the table, some are new to the area and had to spend their funds getting settled and some have family issues, she said.

The pantry is stocked through donations from community members - soldiers and civilians - and through work with non-profit organizations in Central Texas. Donations are always welcome and those interested can call Sanders at (254) 288-6868. The pantry is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

High-demand products at the pantry include canned meats like SPAM, tuna and ravioli and diapers and other baby items.

To find out how deployed Fort Hood soldiers are spending Thanksgiving, read Thursday's Killeen Daily Herald.

Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at astair@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7547. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary or www.facebook.com/astairrett.

Away from home during Thanksgiving?

Several local groups and organizations are offering Thanksgiving meals to Fort Hood soldiers and airmen who can't go home for the holiday. To find out more, go to www.kdhnews.com/forthood.

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