Soldiers and families can kick back and relax this Thanksgiving and let the dining facilities handle all the cooking.

All six of Fort Hood’s dining facilities will take part in the third annual III Corps Commander’s Best competition, which compares each facility in terms of appearance, food service operations and food service personnel.

“They start preparing in September,” said Sgt. Maj. Rodney G. Washington, of the 1st Cavalry Division, food service team. “They put a lot of time and work into it.”

Washington will observe the food service personnel on Thanksgiving Day to ensure the holiday runs smoothly.

Each facility will display themed decorations, including ice carvings and table displays.

Operation Iraqi Freedom Dining Facility, run by 1st Cav’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, expects to serve around 700 people Thanksgiving dinner.

“This is not just your normal day,” said Sgt. 1st Class Curtis Carson, assistant manager of the facility.

“It’s a day where we have to prep, to prep before the prep.”

The staff began last month by ordering staple items, with an emphasis on meat. The facility ordered 12 large and 10 small turkeys, more than 10 hams and several beef steamship roasts.

The meat began marinating on Monday, and preparation of the side dishes began Tuesday, including more than 200 pounds of yams.

There will be 25 pumpkin pies and 25 pecan pies, along with an array of other desserts and punch.

Today, nearly 50 staff members will work around the clock to be ready for guests. Senior leadership is expected to serve the meal in their dress uniforms.

The most important aspect to the staff is making the food taste like a home-cooked family meal.

“We have to make it like home,” Carson said.

Competition judges are Bryan Day, III Corps representative, Cloise Graves, Fort Hood representative, and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Desma Jones, the 1st Cavalry Division food advisor. The three will visit each facility during the lunchtime meal service, awarding the top facility with a trophy.

The 3rd Cavalry Regiment’s Theodore Roosevelt Dining Facility was the 2012 winner, Washington said. Operation Iraqi Freedom Dining Facility was the runner up.

Whether or not they win the top prize, Carson said the biggest concern is pleasing its regular customers.

“If we can get these soldiers to unbutton the top button of their pants, then we know we did our job,” he said.

Contact Madison Lozano​ at or 254-501-7552.

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