FORT JACKSON, SC, UNITED STATES
Story by Josephine Carlson
Dining facilities across Fort Jackson looked very different for Thanksgiving and it was a welcome change for trainees across post.
Building 10401, the dining facility for 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment, was decorated with streamers and paper turkeys, and full of workers wearing brightly colored uniforms. There was even cake and other sweets, things not normally offered to the trainees.
Johnsey Rice, dining room shift leader, said she was excited for the day and was even wearing a festive Thanksgiving headband.
“Today is like the grand finale of the dining room here at Fort Jackson, where everything is just so grand,” she said. Rice also hopes that, along with a full stomach, they walk away feeling like they had a little bit of home away from home. “That’s a feeling we try to give every day,” she said.
This meal is different than their normal training days chock full of food, including the aforementioned sugary staples. With 600lbs of turkey, 500lbs of prime rib, 200lbs of salmon and 200lbs of shrimp, along with a myriad of side dishes the dining facility was ready for hungry trainees to descend on them for a special Thanksgiving meal.
“For many of the trainees, this is their first time away from home and first holiday without Family,” said Fort Jackson Commander Brig. Gen. Milford Beagle, Jr. “We try to make this day different by demonstrating that we are one team and one Family and we celebrate traditions accordingly.”
Although there was a seemingly endless supply of food at the Fort Jackson dining facilities, their numbers almost seem amateur compared to the total amounts shipped by the Defense Logistics Agency. According to the DOD News Service, this year, the DLA has shipped out the following quantities of food:
9,000 whole turkeys
51,000 pounds of roasted turkeys
74,000 pounds of beef
21,000 pounds of ham
67,000 pounds of shrimp
16,000 pounds of sweet potatoes
19,000 pounds of pies and cakes
7,000 gallons of eggnog
The most notable difference during the meal was the servers. Commanders, their staffs, and senior non-commissioned officers of each unit served their Soldiers and trainees that passed through the serving line. Some trainees were served by their very own drill sergeants.
“Part of the reason why leaders serve Soldiers on Thanksgiving is to provide a tangible display of servant leadership,” Beagle said. “Leaders work for and serve those that they lead. The physical display of identifying and meeting needs of others by doing something as simple as serving soldiers a meal is a humble reminder to leaders.”
Pvt. Tarina Perciballi, with 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment,was glad to have the meal with her fellow trainees.
“It’s great that we actually can still gather and have nice hot meals together,” she said. “I’m enjoying it, the food is good. Happy Holidays to everyone else out there.”
Jewel Henderson, a dining facility assistant, also shared her excitement for the celebration.
“This Thanksgiving event is very special to me, and it hits home to me because we love our Soldiers,” Henderson said. “So everything that we cook, every dish…we do it with honor and humility.”
Staff Sgt. Jasmine Gabaldon, a drill sergeant who helped serve the 2-39th trainees, said they want the trainees to have the same kind of meal they would have at home.
“Even with the pandemic we want to make sure that they’re able to feel that it’s the holidays…even though being in the military is always a changing environment, we’re always going to adapt and overcome,” she said.
Pvt. Andy Reckers seemed to enjoy his Thanksgiving lunch despite missing his Family.
“It’s always hard to get away from your Family, I guess, but you just don’t lose focus of what you’re trying to accomplish, what you’re trying to get through …
Reckers managed to even sneak in a shout out.
“Hi Danielle, I love you/that’s for my wife, and hi mom,” he said.
Being away from loved ones during the holidays is tough, but builds stronger teams.
“Celebrating a holiday with aspiring Soldiers shows them what it looks and feels like to a part of a team,” Beagle said. “We will endure hardships together and tough times but we will equally enjoy good times with each other.”