What It Takes To Provide Thanksgiving Dinner For The U.S. Military: By The Numbers

As we sit and enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner with family and friends today, there will be empty place settings at thousands of dinner tables across the country belonging to our men and women in the U.S. military who are deployed abroad or sitting alert to protect us here at home. So the Pentagon tries to make those troops a little less homesick by providing them with a legitimate turkey dinner.

This post originally appeared in November 2015 and is being republished today.

This mission is accomplished every year by the Defense Logistics Agency. The U.S. has soldiers spread across hundreds of bases in more than 100 countries around the globe, not to mention many ships at sea.


That’s a lot of turkey in a lot of places.

Here’s the breakdown by the numbers, according to the Department of Defense.

“This year, the Defense Logistics Agency said it shipped out the following quantities of food:

  • 51,699 pounds of turkey
  • 25,970 pounds of beef
  • 17,130 pounds of ham
  • 706 gallons of eggnog
  • 3,360 pounds of marshmallows

In case your brain can’t quantify that, those things are the equivalent of the following items, respectively:

  • 17 adult female hippos
  • 14 1/2 Smart cars
  • 24 male zebras
  • 45 1/2 full kegs of beer
  • 122 gold bars

That’s (literally) some heavy stuff! And it doesn’t even include all the pies, sweet potatoes and other fixins that go into a Thanksgiving meal.”


Although these numbers are bewildering, imagine how much larger they were at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The process for planning this Turkey Day offensive begins much earlier in May, when the DLA asks each service as to how many people they will need to feed and where. Then the agency has to figure out how much each location already has in the way of ingredients, so that shipping is maximized to just what they need.


It can takes months for the refrigerated goods to reach some of America’s most remote bases, so each shipment has to be monitored as it travels in its refrigerated container on its way around the globe. Clearly, this is no easy task.


Anthony Amendolia, a DLA Troop Support customer relationship specialist, said this:

“The turkeys, they come in frozen containers. They make their way across the ocean and arrive frozen. It’s checked that the temperature is the same the whole way over to make sure the quality is there.” He continues “we want to make sure our service men and women, wherever they are, are eating the exact same foods they would be eating if they were home. We want them to feel like they are home when they’re eating their Thanksgiving meal.”And it doesn’t go unnoticed according to Amendolia, “I just recently heard from somebody who came back from Afghanistan who said that no matter where they are in Afghanistan and how miserable it can be sometimes, there’s one thing they look forward to – sitting down and having a great meal they’re used to eating.”


They say wars are won by logistics. That may very well be true, but these logistics are about remembering those who make sacrifices so that we here at home can enjoy a peaceful meal with our loved ones.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Contact the author Tyler@Jalopnik.com


Top photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images, second photo via AP, third photo USS Ronald Reagan, final image via AP

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