News: Cooks prepare for expeditionary living
Story by Staff Sgt. Jason Ragucci
ARGHANDAB, Afghanistan - The U.S. Army is scheduled to leave Afghanistan next year. Bravo or “Baker” Company, 4th Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment is feeling the pressures of what expeditionary living means. At Combat Outpost Terra Nova, the cooks are trying their best to make the soldiers more comfortable.
“Baker” Company soldiers are busy renovating the COP, continuing with force protection, as well as supporting their Afghan partners on daily missions. This does not mean that these soldiers are without a proper meal.
Most COPs are subject to expeditionary living, which requires only two hot meals a day. Midnight chow as well as a hot lunch is no longer on the menu. Soldiers will be given the opportunity to eat at their regular times, but with only a Meal Ready To Eat. The four cooks that reside at COP Terra Nova are willing to go that extra mile and continue to serve three hot meals a day during the retrograde process.
“One major challenge we face right now is the heat,” said Staff Sgt. David Burch, a 501st Brigade Support Battalion cook who is attached to “Baker” Company, 4-17th Infantry, “Everyone complains on how it’s 102 degrees today, or 110 and I always invite them to come to the containerized kitchen and show them that it’s 137 degrees or 140 everyday when we cook for them.”
Burch is the boss of two specialists, and a private first class who prepares a hot meal for more than 200 soldiers and a few civilians every day. Burch starts his day at 4 a.m. and conducts his regular checks of his reports, which explains how much food is consumed and how much food is left. He also travels to other COPs around the Arghandab district for his weekly inspections.
“I want to make sure what I have on record matches on what I physically see at the COPs,” said Burch, “I also inspect for cleanliness in and around the kitchen areas.”
Burch created an outdoor barbecue area stocked with homemade smokers, grills, and a surround sound speaker system for the “Baker” Company soldiers. He allows soldiers to make appointments in using his outdoor barbecue area as well as give them food that they can prepare themselves on the grills. Burch explains how this gives soldiers at COP Terra Nova a well-deserved break from all of their additional tasks during the retrograde process.
“We prepare a variety of different foods all the way from the standard box meal to prime vendor,” said Burch, “Prime vendor is where we get to choose on how to prepare a selection of foods, and what types of seasonings to use for special occasions.”
Burch’s team prepared a prime vendor meal in celebration of the US Army’s 238th birthday. The cooking team served lobster tails, different types of prepared shrimp as well as rib eye steaks. Soldiers of “Baker” Company help serve and wash dishes after every meal. Burch explains how grateful he is that soldiers at COP Terra Nova are able to lend a hand even with their additional duties during the retrograde process.
He graduated his advance individual training more than 13 years ago at Fort Lee, Va.
“When I get back to Fort Bliss, TX, I plan to further my career and volunteer for recruitment duty back in Virginia,” said Burch.