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NEWS | Nov. 24, 2010

Thousands of turkeys deploy to Iraq, Afghanistan

By Nick Sistrun Army News Service

WASHINGTON - The Defense Logistics Agency shipped about 144,000 pounds of whole turkeys into theater so Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines there can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner while deployed.

By now, dining facilities and other distribution points throughout Iraq and Afghanistan have received the food to be used in preparing Thanksgiving meals. In all, about 225 locations are serviced.

"The Thanksgiving celebration and the meal itself is a national cultural celebration," said John Q. McNulty, chief, Army Food and Liquid Logistics, G-4.

Both Thanksgiving and Christmas meals are planned as many as nine months in advance to ensure food supplies are available to be ordered by dining facilities in theater.

The DLA expects to provide meals to more than 48,000 U.S. servicemembers in Iraq and more than 95,000 in Afghanistan. Additionally, thousands of allied troops and U.S. contractors working in those locations will also be able to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal.

Although thousands of miles from wherever they may call home, America's servicemembers won't need to miss the tastes and smells of a hearty Thanksgiving, thanks to efforts by the DLA.

"Providing traditional holiday meals to these American heroes is one of the single most important things we do all year," said Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott Chambers, DLA troop support commander. "It is an expression of our thanks and appreciation for what they are doing for America every day."

The DLA has also shipped an additional 104,000 pounds of turkey breasts and thighs, 50,000 pounds of ham, 112,000 pounds of beef, 57,000 pounds of shrimp, 41,000 pounds of stuffing, 8,600 cans of sweet potatoes and more than 47,000 cakes and pies to theater.

Not all Soldiers will be able to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal in a dining facility, but Army Central Command and tactical units arrange to provide a Thanksgiving meal to all Soldiers, including those in outposts that can't prepare a meal for themselves, said McNulty.

In remote locations, for instance, hot meals can be specially delivered in insulated food containers. Additionally, special supplements are ordered such as nuts, candies, and assorted fresh fruits. Specially developed self-heating meals that include the turkey and all the trimmings can also be sent to extremely remote units.

"The Army makes every effort to provide our Soldiers the opportunity to experience this uniquely American tradition, just as though they were home, one that their service helps preserve," McNulty said.