- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 6, 2009

With the support of DHL and Uno Chicago Grill, retired MasterSgt. Mark Evans recently organized the world’s largest pizza party fortroops in Iraq and Afghanistan, dubbed Operation Pizza Surge.

DHL loaded and flew 62 pallets of ready-to-bake fresh-frozen pizzas to the middle of a war zone. The pizzas weighed atotal of70,938 pounds. DHL workers referred to the mission as Operation Fill the Plane. The goal was to bring reminders of home life to the men and women in uniform overseas.

Thousands of pizzas, packaged in temperature-controlled containers, were picked up at Uno’s facility in Brockton, Mass., and loaded onto trucks. “Uno is honored to be a part of Operation Pizza Surge,” said Uno Chicago Grill Chief Executive Frank Guidara, aVietnam veteran.

DHL flew the shipment from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York directly to the DHL postin Bahrain. From there, DHL worked closely with the U.S. military to ensure that the pizzas were delivered fresh to bases throughout Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sgt. Evans of Elk Grove, Ill., conceived of the project with help from his son Kent. In 2008, the 15-year-old asked if there was a way to deliver deep-dish-style pizzas to servicemen and -women stationed in Iraq in time for Fourth of July celebrations. The initial effort consisted of 2,000 pizzas and was well received by the troops, according to Sgt. Evans. With the help of DHL, he shipped more than 2,000 pizzas for this year’s Super Bowl.

“DHL, which flies directly to many of the U.S. bases in the Middle East, has been a wonderful partner since the beginning,” Sgt. Evans said. “Time and again, DHL has graciously agreed to donate their shipping services to deliver a slice of home to our troops.”

This year, for the first time, Sgt. Evans was able to accompany an Operation Pizza Surge deliverytrip and see his plan in action.

DHL and the U.S. military flew to bases in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. military madedeliveries to areas that required additional security and protection, such as forward operating bases, to ensure that many soldiers were able to enjoy the pizza, not only those stationed in the International Zone in central Baghdad, a four- to five-square-mile area more commonly known as the Green Zone.

The military provided cold-storage facilities and cooked the pizzas at its bases for Fourth of July celebrations. The pizzas fed up to 100,000 soldiers. If placed in a straight line, all the pizzas that were delivered would have measured four miles in length.

Operation Pizza Surge is the world’s largest pizza party, according to Guinness World Records.

Kelly Twedell is a writer and Army spouse from Fayetteville, N.C.

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