JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
For most, Thanksgiving is a time to gather around the table with friends and family to celebrate life and express gratitude. However, the annual tradition can look a little different for service members and their families stationed far from home.
“Many of our Airmen and Guardians may be away from their families, working a shift or may not have what they need to prepare a meal for Thanksgiving,” said Col. Carolyn Ammons, Air Force Services Center commander. “Our goal is to create that sense of home and give them the opportunity to step away from the mission and provide them and their families a place they can go to create memories for the holidays.”
AFSVC manages the food service program and is responsible for delivering quality food options for dining facilities across the Department of the Air Force.
Feeding the force, especially during the holidays, is no small feat. Beginning in April of each year, AFSVC works closely with installation staffs, vendors and the Defense Logistics Agency to provide a traditional Thanksgiving meal to families and authorized patrons at more than 100 dining facilities worldwide.
“There’s a lot of planning that goes into these holiday meals,” said Jim Krueger, AFSVC chief of Air Force Food and Beverage. “We have to make sure each installation has enough food and that they’re properly proportioning it for Thanksgiving and Christmas because if they run out, they can’t just go pick up more at the local grocery store due to dietary restrictions.”
Meals served at dining facilities must adhere to Department of Defense nutritional standards that were recently updated. The services team also follows the DAF food buyer’s guide to maximize healthy food options and fuel Airmen and Guardians with the right nutrition.
Following food standards is just a small piece of the planning puzzle. The services team must create the menu, coordinate requirements with vendors and secure the funding needed to purchase the items, synchronize with DLA to distribute the food, and communicate with installation staffs to thaw everything out and prepare the dining facilities for the event in a timely manner.
One wrong thing can throw off the entire event, Krueger said.
“We start planning eight months out so we can create a buffer to resolve pop-up issues, like food shortages, global supply chain issues and price increases like those we experienced with the recent pandemic,” Krueger said.
Despite the challenges, last year AFSVC helped deliver more than 13,000 pounds of turkey, 10,000 pounds of ham, 15,000 pounds of roast rib of beef, and various sides and desserts to more than 54,000 people.
“These holiday events are really a team effort and there’s so much extra love and attention that goes into executing them,” Ammons said. “We are thankful to have chaplains, generals, commanders and chiefs jumping at the opportunity to serve our Airmen and Guardians each and every year, which really makes these events so special.
“With many Airmen and Guardians deployed around the world supporting six combatant commands, our services team is honored to support our teammates and give thanks this season for their dedication to our nation.”
She encourages authorized patrons looking for a tasty meal this year to visit their nearest DAF dining facility for a slice of home this Thanksgiving.