News: Combat fine dining
Story by Staff Sgt. Jacob Morgan
SOUTHWEST ASIA - The 380th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron is responsible for operating the dining facilities here. They provide more than two million meals a year to assigned personnel and transient warfighters. They package meals specifically for aircrew and patriot missile site operators who are unable to leave their post. When planning the menu, they consider Air Force standards, availability of local ingredients and the nutritional needs of deployed service members.
The food operations specialist, both U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army personnel, do all of this while exceeding Air Force standards in almost every category, said U.S. Master Sgt. Jeffrey Fricke, 380th EFSS food operations chief.
"We have a lot of nice to-haves here, meaning we exceed the amount of juices, fruits and vegetables, breads and variety of healthy options," said Fricke. "The go-to-green program, signifying health by color from red and yellow to green helping our members make informed choices."
Menu planning, food procurement and quality assurance are the most important duties of food operations team, said Fricke.
Planning the menu involves researching available local ingredients and complying with Air Force standards. The types and quantity of ingredients are largely dictated by the food supplier and what's available in the local area. However, Fricke said, food operations managers are receptive to ideas from service members. If the menu item is cost effective, doesn't require a significant amount of prep time, and meets Air Force standards, the staff does their best to obtain and make it available.
Quality assurance starts from the minute food products are delivered. If any item is not of good quality or the right freshness, it's sent back. As part of their quality assurance duties, food operations specialists also watch as the food is prepared, cooked and served by contractors. They check temperatures and cooking techniques to ensure safety of the service members here.
Air Force personnel are responsible for all dining facilities on base; however, Army personnel are responsible for the management of one of the DFACs making feeding personnel here a joint effort.
"I couldn't ask for a better team with our Army members," said Fricke, who calls Sumter, S.C. home and is deployed from Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. "They are outstanding."
The Army and Air Force members differ a little when it comes to the food they serve, said U.S. Army Sgt. John R. Compton,1-62 Air Defense Artillery Battalion rations noncommissioned officer in charge of Windys DFAC.
"We try to bring some unique recipes," said Compton. "We have some specialties that we bring to the table to keep customers coming to Windys."
In addition to those specialties, which include homemade meatloaf and Parmesan chicken, Army personnel at Windys also deliver to the patriot sites here.
The DFAC staff also provides food requested by squadrons or professional organizations for morale events. Typically, a squadron or professional organization place an order for food and prepare the meal themselves, but prior to preparing any meal outside the DFAC, food-handling training is a must.
Feeding members inside or outside the DFAC is a source of pride for food operations specialists here.
"We are vital to this air base. On top of feeding the warfighters that work here, we provide a morale boost; I don't know anyone who doesn't want to eat at our DFACs," said Compton, who calls Mesa, Ariz., home and is deployed from Fort Hood, Texas. "On top of that, joining with the Air Force is great; together, we keep people motivated and in the fight."