By MCSN Michael H. Lehman
USS Iwo Jima Public Affairs
Culinary Specialists, Marine Food Service Specialists and Food Service Attendants aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) hosted a Thanksgiving meal on the ship's mess decks, Nov. 23.
The special Thanksgiving meal served as a way to build morale for the crew while underway and apart from their friends and family during the holiday.
"Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful and provide the best meal possible so the crew can feel like they are at home when they are missing their families," said Iwo Jima's Food Service Officer, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Glenda Young, from Saginaw, Michigan. "This was an opportunity for the Navy and Marine Corps to unite as one and come together to honor each other and give thanks."
The preparations for feeding nearly 2,500 Sailors and Marines aboard Iwo Jima began in late August and included 140 whole turkeys, 40 turkey rolls, 60 spiral hams, more than 25 menu items, assorted desserts, and a themed cake which incorporated the Navy-wide celebration of National American Indian and Native Alaskan Heritage Month.
Master Chief Culinary Specialist Russell Paje, the Navy's most-senior culinary specialist, said celebrating Thanksgiving at sea means having a huge collection of Sailors and Marines with different cultures and backgrounds come together and similar to sharing the meal with an extended family.
Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Tandy Hollingsworth, from Tulsa, Oklahoma, agreed with Paje's sentiment.
"To me, celebrating Thanksgiving at sea means being thankful for my Navy family," said Hollingsworth. "We are all here to support each other and take care of each other. So in a way, it is all just a larger family."
In addition to the meal, the chaplain department held a Thanksgiving service Wednesday evening in the ship's chapel, and Iwo Jima's Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions invited Sailors and Marines to post what they are grateful for on the mess decks.
Iwo Jima, components of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit are conducting a Combined Composite Training Unit Exercise that is the culmination of training for the Navy-Marine Corps team and will certify them for deployment.