News: Best in mess: 2nd MLG Marines compete for W.P.T. Hill Award
Story by Cpl. Devin Nichols
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Marines with Food Service Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 27, 2nd Marine Logistics Group took part in the final leg of the W.P.T. Hill Award competition here, March 10.
The service members took to their field kitchen early in the morning with two missions: feed the surrounding units with hot meals in support of their training and pit their skills against the best in mess from the Marine Corps’ other top food service units to claim the coveted W.P.T. Hill Award.
Originally established in 1985 to improve food service operation and recognize the best field and garrison messes in the Marine Corps, the competition tests Marine units on areas such as operations, sanitation, taste and quality of food.
Food Service Company won its seat in the competition after beating out its competition on the East Coast. Now, the final leg of the competition pits them against winners from the West Coast and overseas.
“Automatically what comes to my mind is food service excellence within the United States Marine Corps, both the garrison and field site,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Marco L. Barnes, a Columbus, Ohio, native and judge for the event. “Specifically whether its garrison or field, I want to see a concept of operation with Marines performing at a high level. Depending on what their mission is, there are different scenarios that we are evaluating. We want to see the operations conducted at a high level and the Marines actually carrying out the mission.”
Sanitation is a huge priority, noted Barnes, who stressed the particular importance of maintaining standards to safeguard troop health in a field environment.
The company set up its Expeditionary Field Kitchen on one of the base’s ranges to simulate an isolated environment. Subject matter experts, including a representative from the National Restaurant Association, visited the team at the field site to observe their performance under pressure.
“We have been really working hard for the award, and I really hope we are able to pull through and get it this year,” said Cpl. Patrick J. Bonelli, a Clear water, Fla., native and the chief messman for the field site.
The Marines prepared shepherd’s pie, white beans and chicken chili, and grilled steak as their main entrées. Side choices included rice, cornbread, baked potatoes and biscuits.
They also established a separate fruit and salad bar to even out the spread.
“Since being here at 5 a.m. this morning, we had some problems with the Expeditionary Field Kitchen we had to fix, but even with those problems we had a backup,” said Bonelli. “It was the cooks that were troubleshooting and not giving up on the task. No matter what the problem was, they still got the meal out and all of the Marines were able to eat on time.”
With enough food to serve approximately 200 people, the Food Service Marines laid out their selection as a busload of service members piled in to try the dishes for themselves.
“I enjoy coming here and seeing the Marines reactions when they eat,” said Bonelli. “The cooks are always happy to see them and see how we make their day a lot better. If we do not win, there was no lack of effort on anyone’s part. Everyone came together and worked hard, but I don’t see with the way they performed and how everyone is acting that it will be a problem.”
The final verdict on the competition will come out over the next few months. The team selected for the award will be sent to Chicago, where they will be recognized for their performance by the National Restaurant Association.