Outback Steakhouses Serve a Steak and Shrimp Dinner to Thousands of U.S. Troops in Afghanistan Truth!



Summary of eRumor:

The story is that Outback Steakhouses joined arms with the military and flew thousands of steaks, shrimp, onions, beverage, and dessert to Kandahar in Afghanistan to give the troops a break from T-rations.

The Truth:

This story is true.  The most commonly-circulated version of the eRumor is the text of an article published in the St. Petersburg Times on July 2, 2002 and written by Tamara Lush.  Employees volunteered from several Outback Steakhouses from around the country to make the journey that took three days one-way.  Most of the food was donated by Outback’s vendors and Outback took care of the rest, according to the article.  The result was that nearly seven thousand meals were served featuring ribeye steak, shrimp, and even Outback’s signature Bloomin’ Onion.  Outback brought more than 13,000 cans of nonalcoholic beer (the real stuff isn’t allowed on the base) and capped off the meal with cheesecake.  It was a widely appreciated break from the rations the troops are normally served.

A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:

For troops in Kandahar, comfort is an Outback meal
delivered on a C-17. But for those traveling to prepare the meal, it’s a
nerve-wracking mission. The rumor started about a month ago. It spread through
the 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan like a dust storm in Kandahar.
Nobody really believed it, because it sounded too good to be true.
The Outback Steakhouse people were coming…. and they
were bringing food! Members of the 101st Airborne, like all of the troops
in Afghanistan, have been eating meals such as T-rations, food that is
sealed in large tin containers. The entire container has to be boiled
to heat the food. Powdered eggs the color of sand are a common T-ration
breakfast entree. The possibility of ribeye steaks, grilled shrimp and,
best of all, a deep-fried Bloomin’ Onion, had them understandably
excited. About 3 a.m. on June 18, a C-17 landed at the Kandahar
Airport. On board were 15 men and women in white Outback T-Shirts. And a
giant cooler. It contained 6,700 steaks, 30,000 shrimp and 3,000 giant
onions. “Enough to feed 6,700 troops,” said Dave Ellis,
Outback’s director of research and development. They also unloaded 13,400
cans of O’Douls, nonalcoholic beer. Ellis wanted to bring Budweiser, but
alcohol is forbidden on the base/post. The idea of feeding the troops was
born a few months ago, when Outback CEO Chris Sullivan was at a social
event with U.S. Army Gen. Tommy Franks. Sullivan “thought it would be neat
to serve the troops a steak dinner and a Bloomin’ Onion,” Ellis said.
Franks thought so,
too. Ellis worked with Central Command at MacDill Air Force
Base, Tampa, FL to figure out how to transport the enormous dinner and
get military clearance for 15 people and cook in a war zone in the
middle of the desert. The employees came from Outbacks around the
country; Ellis is based in the company’s headquarters in Tampa.
Most of the food was donated to Outback by the
restaurant’s vendors; the rest was paid for by Outback. It took nearly three
days to fly to Kandahar. The group stopped in Germany, then flew the
eight hours to Afghanistan. Armed troops greeted the plane. “Nerve
wracking,” Ellis said. The Outback employees were in Kandahar for only three
days. They were preparing food almost the entire time. That posed some
challenges in the 115-degree heat. Ellis and the other employees
wore water-filled backpacks called “camelbacks” so they could constantly
rehydrate. In between their tent and the kitchen, they were told not
to stray off the gravel path or risk being killed by a land mine. And
they were informed of the closest bunker to the kitchen, in case they were
bombed. Base officials also pointed out the area’s infamous
sights: where American Taliban member John Walker Lindh was held. Where a
firefight happened a few weeks ago. Where Osama Bin Laden’s troops had
trained nearby. “You could sense the evil,” Ellis said. Watching the troops
in action and seeing their Spartan lifestyle made Ellis realize the
sacrifices they had made for the United States. “It gave me a sense
of pride,” he said. The
sightseeing was limited. Almost immediately, the employees set to work
preparing the meal. They used the military’s
industrial-sized appliances. They served the thousands of troops in 70 minutes,
Ellis said. After eating the ribeye steak, broccoli, grilled shrimp,
rolls and Bloomin’ Onions, they ended the meal with cheesecake for
dessert. “They were so appreciative,” Ellis said. “Comfort is
very hard to come by over there.”
Since he has been back in the United States, Ellis has
received dozens of e-mails from soldiers and their families thanking them
for the meal. “I just wanted to say thank you for supporting the
soldiers over here,” said Sgt. 1st Class Ryan D. Field. “You have no idea how
much it means to get anything from the states, but to have someone ship
both great food and great people to prepare the food is awesome.”
One woman, a master corporal in the Canadian Forces
who is serving in Operation Enduring Freedom, said it was the best meal
she had all year. “No rules, just right”