CAMP SHELBY, Miss. (NNS) – Sunset casts a gentle, warm light on Hamburger patties as they sizzle on a grill. But this isn’t a holiday cookout for the culinary specialists (CS), assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 15, it’s another day on the job.
While NMCB 15 is in the field performing its Final Exercise Problem (FEP), the battalion’s mess crew is busy around the clock preparing hot meals.
The area surrounding the galley is a hive of activity. The CS’s are unloading ingredients out of containers, counting supplies and moving them into the building while others are working over the grill cooking hamburger patties and sausages and preparing other food items for the meal.
“It’s a hectic thing. There’s constantly something to do,” says CS3 Jessica Slaten as she wiped her brow. “It’s not just cooking. We have to make sure we have enough supply to last us the next week.”
Slaten has been a CS for two years and acknowledged some of the difficulties of the job. “You have to give good customer service to the people coming in, even if you are not in a good mood, or your feeling tired. “
As she concentrates on the grill, Slaten flips hamburger patties and notes that giving the best meal and service possible is essential, no matter what the Seabee’s job may be. “I think that every role is important.”
Inside the galley, Senior Culinary Specialist Maniego begins to assign his sailors different tasks so the meal can be served without incident. He organizes the sailors so the meal can be served in an efficient, assembly-line manner.
“It’s a time-management skill. You’re managing people while your cooking the meal and organizing tasks. If we don’t plan it properly then the meal won’t get put out on time, “ Maniego says.
Maniego has been serving meals to Sailor’s since 1988. He knows how good chow can impact a mission.
“Seeing people’s faces when they come to chow, it’s amazing,” Maniego says. “It puts a smile on their face and it’s like it recharges them.”
By this time, a line is beginning to form outside of the door to the galley as sailors form NMCB 15 line up for the evening meal. It is nearly time for the chow hall to open.
As Maniego stares at the growing line outside a small smile creeps across his face in satisfaction. After all these years, Maniego says he still finds his work rewarding.
When asked about the greatest satisfaction he gets from the job, Maniego says, “I think it’s when they appreciate what you do. If you put out a good meal, they always appreciate that. That’s my reward for being a CS.”
Back outside, Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Spencer Crawford carefully inspects rations that are about to be taken inside to be served. He ensures they are sanitary and is checking their quality.
“I love to cook and I love to make people happy,” he boasts. I’ve been cooking professionally for 16 years.”
Crawford began his cooking career in the Marine Corps and later joined the Navy. He stated that his joy of making meals led to his decision to become a CS.
“When I got a chance to join the military, I always wanted to be a cook because I always heard military chow wasn’t good, Crawford says. ”I thought, well, I could make it better.”
As he completes his inspection, Crawford gives a nod of approval and another CS takes the patties inside to be served. The sailors of NMCB 15 are already starting to enter the building to begin eating.
“You have to love it, Crawford says. “It’s a grueling job. The hours are long and you work out in the hot and cold, but I’ve come across a lot of great workers here.”
Inside, the galley hums with activity, as battalion files through to be fed. The careful planning and teamwork put into place to serve the meal is evident as over 500 people shuffle through the galley in a quick and proficient manner.
Down the line, Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Kizzire carries the tray of patties that Crawford approved into the chow hall and begins to serve them.
“When I enlisted I figured that everyone has got to learn how to cook, so I might as well start, “ he laughs.
Kizzire notes that being a good CS means getting to know people and that his job is all about being able to multi-task.
As he serves the patties he smiles and says, “my favorite part was getting to know the people. You could be on the grill cooking morning eggs and you could see someone standing in line and you know he likes his eggs scrambled with cheese. You get to know him so well that you can go ahead and throw his eggs on the grill and by the time he gets up to you, they are ready for him.”
NMCB 15 passes through the chow hall and all sailors are fed in just over hour. Refreshed and recharged, they head out for the evening. For some, their day is finished and they will be heading to bed soon.
As they file out, they pass a group of CS’s cleaning out dishes and taking inventory. Among them is CS2 Crawford.
He pays them little attention, his mind occupied with making sure the inventory is correct. During this FEP, the Seabees of NMCB 15 can expect to eat their meals out this building for the next week on time, every day. But for Crawford and the rest of the CS’s, their job isn’t a picnic it’ just another day.
For the CS’s attached to NMCB 15, the day isn’t over. Their work has just begun all over again.