A line of Soldiers stretch beyond the door and wrap around the side of the building. It is still dark outside but waiting inside is the promise of a hot meal and a relaxed setting, including a television that plays American news channels and sporting events.
Over the next three hours, Staff Sgt. Roongpetch Kaewnork and a minimal staff of three military and three civilian workers will feed over 600 Soldiers.
Kaewnork, from Hampton, Va., is one of two noncommissioned officers in charge of the Dining Facility Administration Center for the Special Troops Battalion, 1st Armored Division, during their pre-deployment training at the Grafenwoehr Training Area. The DFAC or "chow hall" serves Soldiers two hot meals a day in conjunction with one meal ready-to-eat.
Simultaneous to the pre-deployment training, is Operation Unified Endeavor, a mission readiness exercise being held at the Joint Multinational Training Command. During the exercise, the 1st Armored Division is working directly with III Corps at Fort Hood, Texas, and on a similar time schedule. Three DFACs are open at different times of the day to facilitate the needs of Soldiers' schedule.
Kaewnork and 12 other Soldiers work split shifts between the different DFAC locations and still manage to fit in the mandatory pre-deployment training.
"We have a limited staff but we still make the mission happen," Staff Sgt. Terry Allen, senior NCOIC of the DFAC, B Company, STB, 1st AD. "It is my job to make operations run smoothly."
The ability to adapt to fit the mission is a cornerstone of the Army, said Allen from Galveston, Texas.
Often reporting two hours before meal service time to cook and setup, Kaewnork is motivated by the knowledge that his work positively impacts the lives of the Soldiers in his unit.
"Soldiers look forward to a hot meal," said Kaewnork. "Morale is definitely tied to food service."
"I have a lot of respect for them [the food service specialists]," said Capt. Rori Cook, battalion adjutant, STB, 1st AD. "It's hard work to feed this many people. And I really think it keeps the Soldiers energized to keep up with the training standards."
This work, Hot meals day or night keep Iron Soldiers rolling, by SSG Jennifer Spradlin, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.