Agency delivers 'taste of home' to deployed troops

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How do you plan Thanksgiving dinner for 180,000 people more than 6,000 miles away? If you're a food buyer at the Defense Logistics Agency, you start by making a shopping list in April for meals to be served to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Providing superb meals to our U.S. troops is a critical mission of the Defense Logistics Agency, and one we put a great deal of effort into," said Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott D. Chambers commander of the DLA Philadelphia field activity, which provides all the food for U.S. military personnel worldwide, 365 days a year.

"It's very important to us to give our troops a taste of home during the holidays, so we start planning the traditional Thanksgiving meal even before Memorial Day rolls around," General Chambers said.

DLA employees in the Philadelphia-based subsistence supply chain start their Thanksgiving meal planning this early to make sure that food items and ingredients will arrive overseas in time for the holiday. Many ingredients for the meals are on hand at prime vendor locations by September, and bigger dining facilities start receiving high-volume items, such as turkeys and large beef roasts, in October.

Navy Capt. Ed Rackauskas, who leads DLA's subsistence directorate, said deliveries began in Iraq and Afghanistan in mid-October to allow for unexpected changes or possible redistribution due to movement of troops.

"No matter where troops are stationed, they can expect DLA to provide the best possible meal for Thanksgiving," he added.

He said putting together these meals is challenging, particularly in supplying some of the bigger dining facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan where holiday meals are served all day to accommodate servicemembers working different shifts.

Here is a breakdown of quantities and dollar values for Thanksgiving meals for servicemembers in Iraq:
-- Raw and precooked whole turkey: 225,980 pounds costing $795,359.08;
-- Turkey white meat: 77,648 pounds, $416,969.76;
-- Turkey dark meat: 73,296 pounds, $236,013.12;
-- Ham: 40,826 pounds, $135,020.26;
-- Beef: 23,536 pounds, $128,019.30;
-- Shrimp: 28,764 pounds, $180,062.64;
-- Stuffing mix: 37,107 pounds, $87,421.94;
-- Potatoes: 41,515 pounds, $102,362.32;
-- Sweet potatoes: 9,702 cans, $60,799.20;
-- Vegetables, corn, green beans: 59,435 pounds, $80,771.42;
-- Cranberry sauce: 7,188 cans, $52,448.44;
-- Pie: 26,946 pies, $245,320.33; and
-- Cake: 13,544 cakes, $220,915.68.

The total dollar value for Thanksgiving meals in Iraq is $2,741,483.49.

Here is the same breakdown for the $1,301,292.42 spent for Thanksgiving meal items for servicemembers in Afghanistan:
-- Raw and precooked whole turkey: 48,228 pounds, $121,143.96;
-- Turkey white meat: 28,235 pounds, $134,682.35;
-- Turkey dark meat: 14,112 pounds, $32,034.24;
-- Ham: 22,950 pounds, $62,424;
-- Beef: 112,467 pounds, $520,489.01;
-- Shrimp: 21,168 pounds, $140,555.52;
-- Stuffing mix: 24,706 pounds, $49,838.88;
-- Potatoes: 23,814 pounds, $19,815.60;
-- Sweet potatoes: 3,529 cans, $15,017.65;
-- Vegetables, corn, green beans: 48,397 pounds, $23,766.47;
-- Cranberry sauce: 1,764 cans, $8,869.98;
-- Pie: 24,706 pies, $126,411.76; and
-- Cake: 2,824 cakes, $46,243.

(Story courtesy of American Forces Press Service)