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Thanksgiving meal a strategic affair at state's largest Army post

A thousand-plus pounds of meat and round-the-clock preparation required to feed 3,500 basic trainees — plus friends, relatives, retirees and anyone else who wants to join — for Thanksgiving dinner at Fort Sill.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD Published: November 21, 2012

The strategic plan — er, menu — also calls for zesty bean soup, mashed potatoes, bread dressing, green bean casserole and plenty of vegetables and sauces. On a table in the back, soldiers decorated a 396-square-inch carrot cake-yellow cake blend.

Come dinnertime, cooks will slice to-order four 50-pound slabs of steamship round.

Year's biggest meal

Sgt. Billy Belvin, dining facility manager, oversees the entire Garcia operation like a general, from decorations through the final cycle of the dishwasher.

It takes 50 of his men about 24 hours to prepare food for the 1,000 patrons expected for dinner at this particular dining hall, Belvin said. At Garcia, the public is invited to join, he said. Most diners, however, will be single soldiers too far from home to travel, or trainees who do not get any time off.

It's the largest dining operation he will manage this year, Belvin said.

“Putting a meal like this together is very hectic,” he said. “It requires a lot of talent, and people can get frustrated. But at the end of the day, seeing the soldiers come in with a smile on their face is all worth it.”

A 19-year-veteran of the U.S. Army, he said he's most thankful this year for his two daughters.

But gazing around at his troops in the kitchen, he said it's hard not to feel blessed by his men.

“They're here doing all the good stuff,” he said.

“I do ask a lot of them, and they do come through,” he said.