News: Steak Team Mission grills Afghanistan
FORWARD OPERATING BASE DULUTH, Afghanistan – The Steak Team Mission is at it again. After 10 years of serving steaks to troops across the world, STM, a Texas-based nonprofit organization, is back in Afghanistan.
The team of eleven arrived early in the week for preparation to serve 2,000 meals to troops at forward operating bases throughout Afghanistan. They flew from Texas with all the supplies it takes to serve that many people.
The grills, large enough for 40 steaks at a time, were welded together by the engineers at the combat battalions. They were either flown on the plane with the team or set up ahead of time before the crew arrived. To make this mission possible, the charcoal was brought in from Kuwait, the steaks are from Texas and the teams were men from all regions of the United States.
The objective was to divide into two teams to reach six FOBs in three days. Logistically, the coordination took months to plan and the Marines from billeting and food service stepped onboard to execute the cuisine success.
The men volunteered their time and finances to give thanks to the service members fighting on the frontlines. The best way for them to give back was to travel 7,000 miles into a combat zone with a little taste of home.
“This is where we want to be,” said Tony Booth, a dedicated and committed member of the team as he lit the barbeque he designed for the engineers to make. They wanted to be with the service members with the dirt on their boots because they had such a good time last year, they wanted to do it again this year, said Booth.
Every year there are new steak team members who go out on missions with Booth as he is a seasoned veteran of the STM and has more than 10 years of experience under his belt. He is happy to show the news guys the ropes and share his experiences along the way.
On the FOBs, the service members are happy to lend a hand and open up their kitchens to the STM. Since FOB life is usually two hot meals a day and those normally come out of a can or foil wrap, the steak crew was warmly welcomed. The new faces and good food are what FOB life needs.
“This is our way of giving back,” said Ronnie Yankey, a newcomer to STM, a retired firefighter and former Marine during Vietnam. “We just want to give them a little taste of home.”
And the service members could not be more thankful to the team.
“Better than I thought it could be in Afghanistan,” said Sgt. Chandler Wakefield, a native of Charlotte, N.C., Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Forward Operating Base Duluth.
As the food was being prepared, the team members toured the austere base and were able to talk personally with the ones who are sacrificing their lives for their country.
“What we went through to get here is nothing compared to what these guys go through,” added Booth with his Texas drawl.
For starters, an appetizer of bacon wrapped in a finger-bite sirloin and peppers was served. The smell of the barbeque enticed the guys out of their tents and they start to gather around the grill waiting for the main dish. Smash, the improvised explosive detection dog, licked her lips and wagged her tail when she smelled the steak.
For their entrée, STM prepared cole slaw, jalapeño cornbread, baked beans and for the main dish an eight-ounce sirloin made to order. The STM left nothing behind including an ice cream bar for dessert. In the desert heat, keeping the ice cream cold was a challenge, but the team accomplished this task with portable coolers.
The appreciation for civilians coming out to serve this lucky meal to the service members is valued. The message of thank you is different from a civilian coming this far, said Capt. Charles Anklam III, Weapons Company 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, FOB Duluth.
“It is a great treat and much appreciated,” said Anklam. “It is good to be recognized by American citizens.”
After the meal, Anklam invited the troops and the team to the flagpole for a few words of gratitude. He let them know that their actions were well appreciated. Anklam then gave the team an American flag flow over Afghanistan. Yankey then had the opportunity he had been waiting for, to fly a flag for the 351 firefighters who lost their lives at the World Trade Centers on 9/11.
The day was a remembrance for those who have come before and who will come after.
As the sun began to set and the wind died down, the team packed up and waited for the helicopter to take them to Camp Leatherneck. They met up with the other team members, who were grilling at 2nd Bn., 5th Marines, Combat Outpost Coutu.
After a good night’s sleep, the teams continued on to Musa Qu’la, Edinburgh, Shagazi, and 7171 for more steak to be grilled and tributes paid.