The receipt -- for $7,272.36 in groceries and household products -- was more than seven feet long.
Sgt. 1st Class Jeffery Stitzel went about his five-minute, all-expenses-paid shopping spree yesterday at Fort Belvoir's commissary the same way he became the U.S. Army's Soldier of the Year -- by preparing a methodical plan of attack.
Stitzel and his wife, Maria, spent last week casing the commissary, identifying their targets and devising their strategy: They would park shopping baskets near their soon-to-be gotten gains and place notes in each basket so as not to forget anything.
"We had planned it out, we rehearsed it, we figured out who was getting what," said Stitzel, still flushed after the raid. "It really helped."
The shopping spree was one of several prizes that Stitzel, 33, an infantryman with the Old Guard at Fort Myer, won in September when he beat out thousands of other soldiers from across the country in a week-long skills competition, the first of its kind. He also received a trophy, savings bonds, a gold ring and a trip to Disney World.
"We've never recognized soldiers at the noncommissioned level, and we thought this would be a good way to do it," said Army Sgt. Maj. Jack Tilley, noting that 1.3 million soldiers serve in the Army.
The competition included an arduous physical fitness test; rifle target practice, in which Stitzel scored a perfect 40 of 40; first-aid skills; and day and night land navigation courses. He also had to appear before a selection board that judged soldiers on their knowledge of military issues as well as their appearance and bearing.
"You just have to set your goals and try to follow through with them," Stitzel said of his two game plans.
The commissary haul he made with the help of his wife was impressive: There was enough choice meat, poultry and seafood to feed, well, an army; enough toothpaste, toothbrushes and other dental products that neither they nor their three young children will ever have an excuse for a cavity; enough throwaway mops to give them the cleanest home in their Ashburn community; cartons and cartons of skin care products that would provide eternal youth if they worked; and enough batteries to power the Energizer Bunny across the continent several times.
"It's the longest tape I've ever seen," cashier Leeann Lambert said, tearing off the receipt after ringing up the mountain of items. "I didn't even know it could go that high."
Army officials hope the prize will draw attention to the amenities of the base commissaries, where all active and retired military personnel and their families can receive discounts of as much as 30 percent on various items. As civilian big-box discount stores provide more competition, commissaries want to keep their customers coming back.
"You'd be surprised that the majority of single men and women in the military don't realize they are allowed to use the commissary," said Steve Lamkin, a regional director for the Campbell Sales Co. and a member of the Commissary Council, made up of military and industry appointees. "They just think it's for married couples and families."
The Fort Belvoir commissary was a prime site for the Stitzels' spree. Of the 276 commissaries worldwide, it is one of the largest and has the highest sales volume: $7.5 million each month.
As they ran through the aisles yesterday, they were cheered on by the staff. "Get em' all," said an employee as they threw armfuls of meat -- pork and beef tenderloins, T-bone and porterhouse steaks, filet mignon and baby-back ribs -- into the carts.
"He's really smart. He went to where the money was," said meat cutter Eddie Porto.
Informal bettors predicted that the spree would cost $3,000 -- low by more than half.
"They busted the bank," said Alan J. Burton of the American Logistics Association, a lobbying group whose credit card paid the bill.
Maria Stitzel, whose usual monthly grocery shopping bill is about $400, said that after the practice run a week earlier, she and her husband bought a 20-cubic-foot freezer. Yesterday afternoon, they bought a 10-cubic-foot model and still had to store some of the food at a neighbor's home. Their cargo was so bountiful that when they arrived home, their car bumper scraped bottom as they pulled into the driveway.
Their three children -- Miranda, 8, Matthew, 6, and Justin, 4 -- hadn't asked for anything special before their parents went shopping. "They didn't really care," Jeffery Stitzel said. "They just keep asking us when we're going to Disney World."
And what did they do after they put everything away?
"We went out to eat," he said.