News: Field mess serves up hot competition for prestigious award
Story by Lance Cpl. Anne Henry
CAMP FOSTER, Japan - The smell of hot food surrounded the field mess site as Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 172 prepared to defend their title as the best food service support unit in the Marine Corps during the William Pendleton Thompson Hill competition at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma Nov. 1.
The WPT Hill competition was started in 1985 and is named after Maj. Gen. William P. T. Hill, the quartermaster general of the Marine Corps from 1944-55.
Mess halls are judged on taste, quality of food, sanitation and operations during the competition by judges from the Maj. Gen. William Pendleton Thompson Hill Memorial Awards Program for Food Service Excellence, who travel to various Marine Corps bases worldwide to crown the overall winners in several categories, including food service support.
The Marines with MWSS-172, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, will be judged against food service support Marines with 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II MEF from Camp Lejeune, N.C., and 1st MLG, I MEF from Camp Pendleton, Calif.
The squadron was judged in both field and garrison settings during the competition at the air station.
“Today, we set up a humanitarian (assistance and) disaster relief scenario,” said Lt. Col. Darin J. Clarke, the commanding officer of the squadron. “Conducting a field mess site is one of our many missions as (MWSS-172).”
The exercise was more than just a display of food-service prowess. Motor transportation, utilities and communications elements with MWSS-172 all participated to ensure the field mess hall ran as smoothly as possible.
“We are here to provide the mess hall with any support possible,” said Lance Cpl. Cecilia M. Mavrommatis, a basic water support technician with the squadron. “This is great training for us, as we get to explore what our job is like outside of our daily routine.”
The competition began with the Marines preparing food. Everyone had to know exactly what his or her roll was for the operation to run smoothly.
“This competition is allowing us to apply our training,” said Pfc. Zach Stanelle, a food specialist with MWSS-172. “We get to refresh old skills as well as learn new ones related to setting up the field mess facility.”
Before serving the meal, several leaders, including Maj. Gen. Christopher S. Owens, the commanding general of 1st MAW, toured the field mess site and visited with the Marines.
“The commanding general showed support for the hard work the Marines are putting into this exercise,” said Clarke.
The day was a success for the squadron, proving to the Marines that they could set up a functional field mess facility in a short amount of time. In addition to this, it gave them refresher training in skills that are critical to their job field.
“My goals for my Marines are simple,” said Staff Sgt. Michael W. Robinson, a warehouse chief with MWSS-172. “I want them to become proficient in setting up a field mess site and have a better understanding of their military occupational specialty and the responsibilities that come with it.”
The results of the competition will be determined after all competing units have been judged at other Marine Corps bases and are expected to be announced in early 2013.