Story by Winifred Brown
US Army Garrison – Japan
CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Nov. 26, 2020) – This Thanksgiving, Brad Richardson is particularly thankful for the staff he oversees at the Camp Zama Dining Facility.
For Army cooks, Thanksgiving is the biggest day of the year, and they helped him organize, prepare and serve the annual meal gracefully.
“What I would like focus on is the people who prepare the food,” said Richardson, food program manager, Logistics Readiness Center-Honshu, 403rd Army Field Support Brigade. “They really go through a lot … [Some people] just think, ‘Oh yeah, they cook the food.’ No, they didn’t; they did a lot of work to get to that point. Plus, with COVID, it’s a little tougher.”
This year, instead of holding the annual meal at the dining facility, officials held the meal across the street in the gym at the Yano Fitness Center so there would be more room for people to socially distance. This added a new dimension of planning for those preparing the Nov. 25 luncheon meal.
“It’s different now,” Richardson said. “It’s got to be done early and we’ve got to get it across the street to the gym. So again, it’s such a tough logistic piece that they’ve got to deal with this year, but they’ll do OK. We’ll make it work.”
And they did, providing a Thanksgiving meal complete with turkey, prime rib, ham, dressing, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, rolls, sweet potato and pumpkin pie and much more. Staff also decorated the tables and the gym.
Richardson said planning for the meal starts in July because he must order all the food early so it will arrive in plenty of time from overseas.
“We cook everything before the actual date,” Richardson said. “Then a day or two prior [staff] start slicing all the meats on the slicing machine that we have. So, the prime rib, and the ham, of course, is hand cut, but the turkey can go on the slicer.”
In addition to the dining facility’s staff of 24, Richardson said he is also thankful for the U.S. Army Garrison Japan Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation personnel who helped set up the gym, as well as all the Soldiers from the Field Feeding Team of the 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion and other units who helped make the meal a success.
The Thanksgiving meal is all about Soldiers, Richardson said.
“What we try to do is try to make the Soldiers feel like they’re having a home cooked meal, like they would have had with their parents, their grandparents and their whole family―especially the Soldiers who live in the barracks,” Richardson said.
A great part of the Army’s Thanksgiving tradition is having members of command staff serve the Soldiers during the meal, Richardson said.
Not only does it give command staff a chance to show how much they care for Soldiers, it also allows Soldiers to know how much their command staff cares for them, Richardson said.
Richardson said when food service officials visit the Camp Zama Dining Facility to inspect, they often comment on how well the staff gets along.
“They call it a dance,” Richardson said. “[The staff members] never bang into each other. When you go to other places you see yelling, screaming; it’s loud … In Japan, these guys aren’t yelling at each other to get things done.”
For more information on the history of Thanksgiving in the Army, visit https://www.army.mil/article/91633/thanksgiving_in_the_army.
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