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As November turns to December, I reflected on serving lines. I mean lines of food in trays, usually kept hot by a heat source underneath. Behind the serving line, stands a line of people, each poised to serve up a dollop, ladle, or tong full of good eating. Three things come to mind around this arrangement, two from military service and one from Christian service (the “faith community”).
It is a matter of many decades tradition for Army officers, especially commanders, and their “right arm,” their senior sergeant (company first sergeants and the command sergeants major at battalion and above) to appear in their dress blue uniforms, don aprons and serve their troops dinner. The uniform changes to camouflage in deployed areas or when long field exercises go through the holiday, but there is still a tradition, if the dining hall or mess trailer is not all contract workers, of serving your troops. In the largest land force, this is a small recognition of the officers’ dependence upon the enlisted for success. For good officers, this is not the only day of the year when they approach their duty with a servant-leader perspective.
Speaking of dining halls, a Thanksgiving feast, allegedly within the Index of Recipes of the Armed Forces Recipe System, comes to mind. It was 1989 and I had the additional duty of battalion mess officer. As a practical matter, this meant I reviewed and signed the books while an insanely competent E-7 battalion mess sergeant ran the show. And what a show it was that year!