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Thanksgiving dinner for troops in Afghanistan has been in the works for months

A case of sparkling grape juice is wrapped and ready to ship to a dining facility on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan on Nov. 16. The juice is a special treat for the deployed Soldiers who will be spending Thanksgiving in the theater. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Elizabeth White with 3ID RSSB/Released)

What defines a holiday? The time spent with families, the happiness of the season and, undoubtedly, the meals. Soldiers with the 3rd Infantry Division Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade deployed to Afghanistan can experience a new take on what the holidays mean during their nine-month tour.

A quintessential part of Thanksgiving is that turkey dinner. An important aspect of boosting morale in Soldiers is being able to provide that meal. Soldiers with the RSSB Class One shop are in charge of making sure that Soldiers can have their holiday dinner.

“Thanksgiving food was ordered four months in advance,” said Chief Warrant Officer Three Yessenia Johnson, the food advisor support operations chief for the 3rd Inf. Div. RSSB. “The intent of the chain of command is to ensure every single Soldier gets turkey.”

The 3rd Inf. Div. RSSB food service section is responsible for placing orders for rations and tracking them until delivery is complete throughout the entire Combined Joint Operations Area – Afghanistan. Partnering with the Defense Logistics Agency, they manage items such as water; prime vendor items such as meats, potatoes and canned goods; operational rations such as MRE’s, and health and comfort packets.

Food is ordered and shipped to Bagram Airfield from the United States, where it will take 120 days to arrive in country. It arrives in the airfield, where it is then taken off post to be stored in a warehouse, until orders are placed from dining facilities for the items.

The class one warehouse on BAF acts as the go-between for the off-post warehouse and austere bases. Orders will come through the class one yard, be sent to the warehouse where they will then send the ordered food back to the class one yard, where they will then ship it via air or ground to those austere bases.

“The RSSB deals with DLA and is a direct link to customers in the CJOA-A,” said Johnson. “DLA has 38 direct customers and we help with 12 sites that they can’t get to.”

Once the items are received by the customers, the items are checked for quality and stored in rations rooms. The menus for the various dining facilities will determine what food is taken out of storage.

Walking around the class one warehouse, you can see the holiday menu items ready to be shipped to the facilities on BAF. They even have special cases of sparkling grape juice wrapped and ready to go for the Thanksgiving dinners.

Despite being away from their families during the holidays, Soldiers are able to remain positive.

“I view everyone here as a part of my family,” said Spc. Damirra Palacious, an operations specialist with the 3rd Inf. Div. RSSB. “It’s sad to be apart from the family but this is our job. We chose to be part of something.”