No holiday turkeys have some crying fowl
The holiday season for U.S. civilians working on Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo isn’t exactly a horse-driven sleigh ride to grandmother’s house.
“It’s a dumpy town in a dumpy place,” Jim Scism said of Ferizaj, the closest town to the base.
Ferizaj is not a bastion of American holiday cheer, given that most Kosovars living there are Muslim with no reason to celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas.
But last year, at least, the contractors had turkeys. And at least they had hams.
“Out of 20 people, we bought 11 turkeys and seven hams,” said Scism, who works for DynCorps doing aircraft maintenance. They cooked them up at their apartments, hoping the power wouldn’t go out as it frequently does, Scism said, and dined together.
It was all made possible by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which bought the turkeys and ham from the Defense Commissary Agency, picked them up at the Ramstein cold storage facility, flew them to Bondsteel and put them in the post exchange’s frozen food section.
This year was more Grinch-like, however.
There were zero turkeys and zero hams in the frozen food case. The contractors say that when they asked whether they could order some, they were told no.
“We’re not happy,” Scism said.
“I don’t feel it is right that American Soldiers and Civilians should have to go without their own Turkey or Ham,” Kyle Foster, a colleague of Scism’s, wrote to Stars and Stripes. “It is tradition.”
It’s too late for the Thanksgiving turkey, but AAFES spokesman Lt. Col. David Konop said that whoever told the the contractors they couldn’t order holiday meats and fowl was mistaken.
“We can take orders,” Konop said. “It’s certainly far enough out to order the hams for Christmas. We’re going to send a message (to the Bondsteel PX) making sure that’s understood.”
There will be a nominal service fee on the orders: 25 percent of the purchase price, he said.
The confusion seems to have arisen because AAFES last year stocked turkeys and hams. This year, AAFES officials decided against it. Konop said that was because too few people bought them last year.
“We got the turkeys down there, and there wasn’t a demand for them,” he said.
Konop could not provide numbers on how many turkeys or hams were sold last year. He said they ended up reduced in price or, if they reached their sell-by dates, were thrown away.
Konop said that soldiers, who comprise most of the Bondsteel AAFES customers, have limited use for frozen turkeys and hams because they have no cooking facilities. Which is one reason why there is no commissary there.
Most soldiers, he said, will be eating their holiday meals in one of the two base dining facilities.
“The food is very well prepared and there are always a variety of main and side dishes to choose from,” according to the Web site globalsecurity.org. “There are also salad bars, potato bars and multiple dessert offerings. Due to General Order No. 1, only alcohol-free beer is served, but it is better than nothing!”
But the civilians, many of them former servicemembers, are not looking forward to a mess hall holiday.
“We have to spend every day here working,” Scism said. “Why would we want to come here on our day off?”