News: The Zen of Cooking at COP Deysie
Story by Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson
COMBAT OUTPOST DEYSIE, Afghanistan — So the game is about to come on TV and you pick up the phone to order pizza and wings for you and your friends. You have about five different flavors of wings to choose from.
Almost 7,000 miles away from home, on a tiny U.S. Army outpost in the mountains of Paktia province, Afghanistan, you have a choice of over 10 different wings. The only problem is, they don’t deliver.
At Combat Outpost Deysie, the cooks get creative daily and take no shortcuts when it comes to feeding the platoon of paratroopers and civilian contractors on the isolated outpost.
U.S. Army Sgt. Colin Goldson, the food service NCOIC, attached to C Troop, 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment, based out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, said he has 10 different flavors of wings he prepares from scratch and serves on Wednesday nights.
“When I first did it, I started off with seven,” Goldson, a native of Landover, Md., said. “Then I just started creating flavors. The Coca-Cola was one that just came into my head. I said, ‘you know what? Coca-Cola Wings. That just sounds so good.’ “
“So I literally got eight cans of Coke, put it in a pot with a little brown sugar and added some corn starch as my thickening agent and baste the wings in it. I let it bake for a little bit and it just took off.”
Another popular flavor among the hungry paratroopers is the MEDEVAC Wings.
“MEDEVAC wings are so hot you need a nine-line MEDEVAC just to get you out of here.” Goldson’s grin widens. “The AID station can’t help you after these wings.”
Goldson is a powerhouse of limitless energy. His positive outlook on life is contagious. He is near completing his master’s degree in psychology. He plays several musical instruments including the violin and guitar. His outlook on food service is almost religious.
Goldson is full of Zen-like food philosophies and is happy to share his insight.
His trademark saying is “It’s not the knowledge you have that makes you a better person. It’s how you utilize the knowledge to get rid of the ignorance.”
“My philosophical approach to food services is this: These soldiers deserve the best,” Goldson said. “If I can bring the homeliness here and make the soldiers more at ease and comfortable when they come to chow, I’m going to go above and beyond and do whatever I can possibly to make them happy. Whether my cooks agree with my philosophy or not, I’m going to demand that from them.”
“The last man that eats will get what the first man got,” Goldson said. “That’s food service. That’s not going above and beyond. That’s just taking care of the soldier.”
Goldson said it was his grandmother’s influence that sparked his interest in cooking at the age of 7.
“I had that grandmother that instilled a lot of values and doing the right things,” Goldson said. “Just watching her and how she seasoned up food and brought life to the home with food. My home setting as a child was about everybody getting together on Sunday. It was one big party, but it was the love of cooking that drew me and enticed me to take it up on a professional level.”
Since joining the Army, Goldson went to Advanced Individual training at Fort Lee, Va., and was first assigned to Fort Bragg after graduating Airborne school.
He has been stationed overseas in Korea and Germany, where he excelled in cooking foreign cuisine. He was also a culinary instructor at Fort Eustis where he passed his knowledge on to new soldiers.
Goldson doesn’t take all the credit for the buzz about COP Deysie’s DFAC.
“I can’t do it alone without the soldiers’ input on the menus that I implement here,” Goldson quickly pointed out. “I’m always about being creative and getting ideas from soldiers. I can’t do it without my cooks either. You’re only as strong as your weakest link. I instil the training in them every day. I’m very happy with what my cooks do with their attitude and approach to food services.”
Despite his years of cooking experience and knowledge, Goldson remains humble.
“I’m still learning. I even learn from my PFC. He has a lot of good ideas too. You learn from everybody.”
U.S. Army Pfc. Jeremy Gomes, a food service specialist attached to C Troop, has known Goldson just over a year.
“He was one of my AIT instructors,” Gomes, a native of Mesa, Ariz., said. “I showed up in Alaska and there he was, so now I’m out here working with him.“
Working with Goldson during the deployment has been rewarding according to Gomes.
“I have a lot more respect for my job now, Gomes said. “Working with him, he’s taught me a lot. He always talks about having a standard, but it’s more than just a standard, it’s going that extra distance for these guys who are out there every day and having something good to eat.”
Goldson prefers to prepare meals from scratch as opposed to pre-made canned items.
“Most of the sauces that I make are all from scratch,” Goldson says. “I very rarely use canned items. 90 percent of my cooking is repetitive of the creativeness in what I do. When I first came into the Army I was [taught] to make everything from scratch such as biscuits, doughnuts, French toast, coffee or gravy. I like to make everything from scratch.”
Goldson’s team has drawn the attention of the former Combined Joint Task Force senior enlisted advisor, U.S. Army Command Sgt. Major Isaia Vimoto, who served with the 1st Cavalry Division.
The 1st Cavalry Division command sergeant major even brought a cook down from Bagram Air Field to spend the day with Goldson and see how he prepares meals, according to Goldson.
“I’m very passionate about what I do for the Army and I’m very serious about my craft, ‘cause it is a craft for me. I like to take it to the next level. “
For now, Goldson plans to make the Army his career and says the future has many different possibilities. He even hinted that he might even open up an international cuisine restaurant in Virginia some day.
The paratroopers on the COP look forward to the meals his team cooks, but also respect Goldson as a person and non-commissioned officer.
“He makes the COP what it is,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Chad Garcia, a native of Bakersfield, Calif., and team leader assigned to 3rd Platoon, C Troop. ”It’s not just his cooking, but him being him. “
“You fill combat troops’ stomachs with good food and put smiles on these faces, it makes these patrols a hell of a lot easier,” Garcia said. “Coming back knowing that we have him cooking for us is definitely something to look forward to.”