By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Matthew Riggs, USS Ronald Reagan Public Affairs
WATERS SOUTH OF JAPAN – Deployments aboard a U.S. Navy warship can last for just a few months or almost an entire year. Therefore, Sailors often miss out on holidays and special events while serving their country away from home. However, just because they are out to sea doesn’t mean that they can’t celebrate too!
The crew of more than 5,000 embarked Sailors aboard the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) got together for a special meal to celebrate the traditional November holiday, Thanksgiving.
“We have everything a typical Thanksgiving meal would have: turkey, potatoes and pie,” said Senior Chief Culinary Specialist (CS) Kelvin Wiggins, leading culinary specialist from Mobile, Alabama.
Wiggins added Ronald Reagan served more than 5,000 pounds of turkey, three whole pigs, 100 hams, 800 pounds of mashed potatoes with an accompanying 400 gallons of gravy, more than 500 pies and a Thanksgiving-themed 175-pound cake for dessert.
In order to prepare for the event, CSs from each of the ship’s five galleys worked together for the momentous task of feeding the crew a holiday meal.
“We needed the help of more than 150 CSs to make this work,” said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Ralph Calaguas, from Perris, California. “This meal was so big that we had to start preparations more than three days ahead of time to make sure everybody gets fed.”
To make the day even more special, more than 60 members from the ship’s first class petty officer association and chief petty officer association banded together to show their support for the ship’s crew by manning more than 15 serving stations to assist with the meal.
“We’re not only serving, but we are also bussing tables, playing music and even working in the scullery for the day,” said Information Systems Technician 1st Class Monica Bolton, from Chicago.
The event allowed Ronald Reagan’s crew the opportunity to interact and enjoy their home away from home with their shipmates, said Bolton.
“This is the same holiday that we’d celebrate when we’re back home with our families,” said Master Chief Jason Haka, command master chief aboard Ronald Reagan. “Even though we can’t join them, we’ve got another family, a Ronald Reagan family that we can celebrate the day with. We all work together on the same ship for so long that the Ronald Reagan family is very important to us.”
According to Seaman Nicholas Gross, from Petersburg, Illinois the event was a huge success and many Sailors gave their thanks for the meal and celebration.
“Getting a good meal is important to us,” said Gross. “We’re always working hard and running around everyday, so it’s a treat to be able to sit back, relax and have a great meal for the holiday.”