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GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — The largest chow hall in Europe opened its doors for the first time here Thursday, marking another milestone in the Army’s billion-dollar expansion program at Grafenwöhr.

The $9.7 million dining facility will feed breakfast, lunch and dinner to up to 1,800 soldiers each day — three times as many as the 7th Army Non Commissioned Officer Academy dining facility at Grafenwöhr’s Camp Normandy, which has served soldiers and civilians from the training area in recent years.

The new facility incorporates nearly 12,000 square feet of floor space from an old dining facility. Another 22,600 square feet have been added to create a chow hall three times as large as the Camp Normandy DFAC.

One of the new chow hall’s first customers was 1st Sgt. Moises Gonzales, 42, of Flagstaff, Ariz., whose lunch consisted of breaded fish and shrimp with rice, potato salad and jalapenos.

“I like them (jalapenos) hotter than this, but these are good,” said Gonzales, who joined the 18th Combat Support Battalion at Grafenwöhr three months ago.

Another 18th CSB member checking out the DFAC, Capt. Stephen Leonard, 29, of Mount Hope, W.Va., lunched on steak and shrimp.

He said the new chow hall, which is close to several new barracks and a new physical fitness center, saves him the drive to Camp Normandy, about three miles away, each day.

“The food over there was good, and the food here is equally good. If you are trying to eat healthy, you can pick your meals easily and the servings are not too small or too big,” added Leonard, who has been at Grafenwöhr since 2005.

“I’m glad they got it open. There’s not too many places off post for soldiers to go eat. It is closer to where the majority of the soldiers are going to be,” he said.

Plenty of hungry soldiers are arriving at Grafenwöhr every day, said Leonard, whose unit has added several companies of troops over summer.

The DFAC is equipped with some of the latest electronic and computerized equipment, such as “combi” ovens able to steam, bake and roast. The DFAC also features a separate short-order kitchen and large spaces for washing dishes, storage and offices.

The dining areas have an “Americana” theme, with large posters depicting views of Las Vegas, Route 66 and Washington, D.C. The furniture includes modern, contoured wooden chairs and tables.

The dining hall also features floor-to-ceiling windows with light-sensitive blinds that automatically adjust to the position of the sun.

The DFAC serves standard Army menus including a main line with at least two selections and a short-order line.

U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr food program manager Joyce Tony said the DFAC’s construction was completed last May but that the building was left vacant while the Army waited for more troops to arrive at the base.

“It is the largest DFAC in Europe. It is a facility for the soldiers. We are trying to create an environment where we can get all the soldiers to come in and enjoy variety at the lowest price on post,” she said.

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