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Soldiers celebrate Thanksgiving in Liberia

 

Written by Spc. Caitlyn Byrne
27th Public Affairs Detachment

United States Africa CommandMonrovia, Liberia – With 79 percent humidity and a warm ocean breeze, Thanksgiving for Soldiers deployed in Monrovia, Liberia, feels far from traditional. But thanks to a plethora of Thanksgiving activities and fare, Soldiers can still get into the holiday spirit throughout the Joint Forces Command – United Assistance area of operations in Liberia.

In support of the U.S. Agency for International Development, the JFC- UA is assisting the government of Liberia in containing the Ebola virus, while also synchronizing the establishment of Ebola treatment units across Liberia and training health care workers to staff the ETUs.

Soldiers with Task Force Lifeliner, Joint Forces Command – United Assistance dive into one of the many pies and desserts offered in the dining facility at brigade support area in Buchanan, Liberia, Nov. 27, 2014. (Sgt. 1st Class Mary Mittlesteadt, 101st Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs)

Soldiers with Task Force Lifeliner, Joint Forces Command – United Assistance dive into one of the many pies and desserts offered in the dining facility at brigade support area in Buchanan, Liberia, Nov. 27, 2014. (Sgt. 1st Class Mary Mittlesteadt, 101st Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs)

Thanksgiving Day at the Barclay Training Center kicked off at 7:00am with a 5-kilometer Turkey Trot, where all Soldiers in the BTC were allowed to participate. The course started on the BTC track. After one lap, Soldiers ran through camp and headed out toward the beach.

“It was great getting to run on the beach. It was an opportunity to get to see different things and the Liberians who saw us running were really supportive,” said Pfc. Diamonque Osborne, a finance specialist for 101st Airborne Division and a native of New York who finished the run.

Spc. Brittanie Wright and Pvt. Hayley Noble, who are also finance specialists for the 101st Airborne Division, agreed that though it was not their traditional Thanksgiving, they were still enjoying themselves.

“It is different, but I am thankful to get to travel,” said Wright. “I’ve never done Thanksgiving in Africa.”

After the run, Soldiers could choose from a variety of activities held all around the BTC, including watching movies in a tent set up like a theater, participating in a company challenge tug of war and a Humvee push, playing is a spades or Texas hold ‘em card tournament, participating in a domino tournament and, of course, feasting on a Thanksgiving dinner.

Soldiers with the 36th Engineer Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas, assigned to Joint Forces Command – United Assistance, pause their card game to talk with Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, the commander of JFC-UA, at the National Police Training Academy, Monrovia, Liberia, Nov. 27, 2014. (Sgt. Ange Desinor, 13th Public Affairs Detachment)

Soldiers with the 36th Engineer Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas, assigned to Joint Forces Command – United Assistance, pause their card game to talk with Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, the commander of JFC-UA, at the National Police Training Academy, Monrovia, Liberia, Nov. 27, 2014. (Sgt. Ange Desinor, 13th Public Affairs Detachment)

Soldiers at BTC also got a special Thanksgiving treat when it was announced that mail would be distributed for the first time since they have been deployed.

At 1:00pm, cooks at the BTC fired up eight different grills, where they cooked turkey and steak for their fellow Soldiers.

Spc. Aaron Perchaz, first cook for the Headquarters Support Company, HHB, 101st Airborne Division (AASLT), said that he was proud that he and his unit have been given the opportunity to showcase their culinary skills.

“It’s a morale boost for everyone,” said Perchaz. “It’s something cool for us to do. Getting to grill out in the field is one of the most fun experiences that you don’t get to have every day. And we also get to show people that we really can spice things up and that we know what we are doing.”

Perchaz also listed off the cornucopia of foods provided at the Thanksgiving dinner, which included turkey, steak, potato wedges, sweet potato casserole, gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing and six different kinds of pie.

Soldiers voiced their excitement about getting to eat the special Thanksgiving meal.

“I’m excited, it’ll be nice to try something different for dinner, and I’m thankful for all of the events and cool things that they have going on for us today. It makes life here feel a bit more like home,” said Spc. Armando Ibarra, a Soldier with JFC-UA.

The evening ended with live football being streamed over the Internet into a conference room, where cheers could be heard well into the night.

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