NOVEMBER 24, 2022 — Many Americans will enjoy Thanksgiving with family and friends over a good meal, but for hundreds of basic combat trainees at Fort Sill the holiday will be spent learning to be a Soldier.
For Fort Sill leadership and Lawton community members the holiday is a chance to share a time-honored tradition and make trainees feel as at-home as possible despite being away from home.
For Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill Command Sgt. Maj. Stephen Burnley, visiting Soldiers in training is something he does on a regular basis. However, Thanksgiving is a chance for him and Maj. Gen. Kenneth Kamper, commanding general, to practice a leadership trait the two expect to see in all their subordinates — servant leadership.
“What we’re showing these future Soldiers today is one of our Army traditions where leaders come out on Thanksgiving and serve a Thanksgiving meal to their Soldiers and thank them for their service and what they do,” Burnley said.
While serving the trainees of Alpha and Delta batteries,1st Battalion, 31st Field Artillery a traditional meal of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and more, both Burnley and Kamper took time to talk to each trainee as they passed. They asked trainees where they were from, what was their favorite Thanksgiving tradition and just gave the trainees a chance to relax and escape briefly from the somewhat austere conditions of basic training.
Lawton Mayor Stan Booker, who served hundreds of pounds of turkey, was surprised at the diverse make-up of the trainees. He said he met people from Germany, Thailand, Tunisia and from across the United States.
“It just impacted me in a great way,” said Booker with serving tongs in hand. “Any opportunity I get to come out and just uplift these young people is amazing. That’s why I do it, just to give back to these people who are doing so much to protect us.”
Pvt. Walker Stubbe of Minnesota is just one of approximately 1,200 trainees not spending Thanksgiving with his family. Instead, he’s spending it with his teammates.
“We’ve been here awhile, and we’re almost done but I miss home a lot,” Stubbe said. “It’s also fun learning new things and (Thanksgiving meal) is really nice, but I’m ready to continue my adventure.”
While any opportunity to relax and enjoy a hot meal in basic training is always welcome, it’s not the most important part of the meal — it’s being thankful and enjoying the feeling of being a part of a new Army family said Kamper.
“Leadership is a contact sport, and it requires daily interactions,” said Kamper. “As leaders we want to show that we care, and this is one of those times that Command Sgt. Maj. Burnley and I can do that. You will often hear people saying, ‘nobody cares how much you know until they know you care,’ and caring starts at the top.”
Story by Christopher Wilson
Fort Sill Public Affairs