U. S. "Victory 5" Command Team in Iraq Bring Cheers to Soldiers in Thanksgiving
BASRA, Iraq-The plan was an ambitious one. The 1st Infantry Command team are expected to visit 23 dining facilities in nine hours spread over nine provinces in southern Iraq. The area is the same size as the Washington state.
The 1st Infantry Division command team also known as the "Victory 5," visited almost every camp, base and airfield in the United States Division-South operating environment. They dined and talk with USD-S personnel on Thanksgiving Day.
Officials like Maj. Gen. Vincent Brooks, 1st Inf. Div. Commanding General, Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Champagne, division command sergeant major, Brig. Gen. Randal Dragon, deputy commanding general for support, Brig. Gen. Ricky Gibbs, deputy commanding general for maneuver, and Col. Richard Piscal, division chief of staff, visited multiple dining facilities. They chatted and dined with the soldiers.
"Soldiers serve us every day, and we just take this opportunity on a day of thanks, to thank them by serving them ourselves," Brooks said.
They served the troops ranged from tiny joint security stations on the Iranian border with less than a hundred people to massive U.S. hubs that house several thousand people.
"This is unprecedented," said Sgt. Maj. Juan Abreu, the 1st Infantry Division's food services sergeant major. "As far as I know, this has never been done before."
Abreu and Chief Warrant Officer Eunice Buffington spent months planning the mission with the 1st Infantry Division's aviation section. Four sets of aircraft were dedicated for the day. They logged thousands of miles to successfully complete the mission.
The visits were appreciated by the troops. "They've done a good job of capturing the feeling and spirit of Thanksgiving here in Iraq," said Pfc. Zack Davidson of Reston, Va., while dining on deep fried turkey at Camp Garryowen in Maysan Province.
"It's one of the best Thanksgivings I've ever had," agreed Pfc. Armando DeLeon of Brownsville, Texas. "It's an amazing day for us ... having a fun time with all of our comrades."
As the 1st Infantry Division's command team toured southern Iraq, they weren't alone. The 1st Inf. Div. Band's brass quintet and rock bands accompanied Brooks and Champagne respectively. They set up and performed 20-30 minute sets. After the entertainment, they raced again the helicopters for the next stop.
"The bands were really the unsung heroes of the day. They played first, they ate last," said Abreu. "They worked really hard and the Soldiers really enjoyed it."
Cooks also worked overtime to create a special Thanksgiving for the troops.
Spc. James Grantham, a cook at Joint Security Station Al Sheeb on the Iranian border, stayed up all night before Thanksgiving preparing the feast and the decorations. "I try to put my heart into it," said Grantham. "It's not easy, but to see their faces after I get the job done it just makes me feel good. It's not just for Thanksgiving, it's every day when I cook a meal. It makes me feel good to see their faces smile and no complaints."
First Infantry Division Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Champagne serves turkey to a civilian employee at Camp Shocker near the Iraq-Iran border in Wasit Province. Champagne visited five different camps in four provinces on Thanksgiving Day.
With thousands of Soldiers fed and thousands of miles logged, the Victory 5 converged on Basra's Fighting First Dining Facility for their final stop. They served the Soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division Headquarters.
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