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Sill soldiers enjoy early feast

Soldier cooks at Fort Sill's Guns & Rockets Dining Facility (DFAC) served an early Thanksgiving dinner to three brigades on Wednesday so that the troops wouldn't have to work on their holiday today.

Fort Sill Commanding Gen. Wilson Shoffner and Fires Center of Excellence Command Sgt. Maj. Carl Fagan were among the senior Army leaders who donned white hats to serve soldiers of 75th Field Artillery Brigade, 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade and 428th Field Artillery Brigade.

"Today we're joining them, family members, friends, folks from out of town, to celebrate their Thanksgiving meal," the CG said. "One of the things I'll point out about this dining facility is the efforts they've gone to to make this a memorable deal, to make it special 

"The soldiers have outdone themselves. The idea is, for those who can't go home, to make this as much like home as possible."

The staff of Guns & Rockets worked hard to make sure soldiers have as many healthy choices as possible when they go through the line.

"You'll see one of the largest displays of salads and greens that we've got on Fort Sill. The idea is to present healthy choices so our soldiers are able to, in all aspects of their lives, really focus on what we mean when we talk about healthy Army communities. And that's ensuring our soldiers eat right, they have proper nutrition, proper diet, they get enough sleep, they have time to work on fitness and access to mental health when they need it. All of that together is what we mean when we talk about healthy Army communities," Shoffner said.

Serving the troops is one way for Army leaders from battery command up to thank soldiers and recognize their contributions. Many soldiers in these brigades are either deployed right now or getting ready to deploy, and for those who will soon be rotating to the Far East, this may be one of the last holidays they spend in the United States before they go overseas, Shoffner noted.

"We're cognizant of that. We've got some soldiers that have just come back so for them, it's a chance to bring them back to their Army family here at Fort Sill while at the same time we're trying to embrace those that are about to deploy and ensure that they have a memorable Thanksgiving," he said.

Sgt. 1st Class Ritchie Jones, dining facility manager for 75th Field Artillery Brigade, operates Guns & Rockets as the only permanent party DFAC on post. He said that although some soldiers of his brigade and the 31st ADA Brigade normally eat at the Garcia DFAC, Guns & Rockets expected to serve the Thanksgiving meal to all of them Wednesday.

"Usually our customer base is between 450 and 550. We're expecting 800 here today," Jones said. That figure includes family members.

As he sees the mood among soldiers of his brigade, they are willing and ready to go abroad. Soldier cooks assigned to deploying units go with them, and some of these culinary artists are overseas right now, Jones said.

"I'm going to assume that they're doing a Thanksgiving meal as well. Theirs is happening now, on their present Thanksgiving day, because they're in the future," he said.

Here, said Jones, 117 soldier cooks have been working to get ready for Thanksgiving. They prepared over 500 pounds of prime rib, 12 whole turkeys and plain turkey breasts for a total of 636 pounds, and about 450 pounds of potatoes.

The cooks started cutting vegetables about 6 p.m. Tuesday. They started smoking the meats at 8 p.m. Tuesday and stayed up all night tending to them.

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