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    A spirited cook dedicated to the morale, and stomachs, of Canadian and U.S. troops in southern Afghanistan

    A spirited cook dedicated to the morale, and stomachs, of Canadian and U.S. troops in southern Afghanistan

    Photo By Sgt. Luke Rollins | Canadian Sgt. Karen Jones, the kitchen officer of the Wilson dining facility, stops to...... read more read more



    Story by Pvt. Luke Rollins 

    22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment   

    FORWARD OPERATING BASE WILSON, Afghanistan — An old military maxim says, "An army marches on its stomach, not its feet." The Forward Operating Base Wilson dining facility has two armies, American and Canadian, to feed and keep marching to their missions in southern Afghanistan's Zhari District.

    The FOB Wilson dining facility features an all-military cooking team with members from the Canadian and American armies. Leading this team is Sgt. Karen Jones, a military cook with 23 years of service behind her.

    "It's been a unique experience for our American counterparts, because they're not afforded the same kind of training or time on the kitchen decks that we are. We do this all the time as Canadians," said Jones, whose home unit is 3 Area Support Group at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, New Brunswick.

    Under Canadian mentorship, Jones said, the Americans have done and learned things which many of their peers and seniors haven't.

    Pfc. Victoria Ellison agrees. A food service specialist from the 704th Brigade Support Battalion, Ellison is one of the Americans working on Jones's team. Working with the Canadians has given her skills she might have not otherwise learned.

    "I learned how to cook things from scratch," said Ellison, who is from Perris, Calif.

    Merging the two forces into one cohesive unit was important for the smooth functioning of the dining facility, Jones said.

    "I would be nothing without my team. And if I didn't say that I would not be worth the salt I put on these tables," she said. "I did not allow myself to have any area for failure. There are too many people on this FOB for me to allow for failure, even if it meant me working around the clock."

    Jones knows mission success depends on Soldiers' full stomachs, and that a hot, well-cooked meal will boost the morale of Soldiers returning from difficult and often dangerous missions.

    "When you come into my galley, my kitchen ... you are in my zone, this is time to decompress," said Jones. "You sit down, enjoy, forget everything out there, and when you walk out those doors your mind is focused back on the mission."

    Jones often coordinates with the unit commanders around FOB Wilson to ensure soldiers deploying on or returning from missions outside normal meal hours have a chance to eat.

    "I believe in feeding the troops, so if they have to go out earlier in the day I bring my cooks in earlier. If they're coming in later, like after meal-hours ... I leave somebody back with a hot meal," said Jones.

    But hot meals are not the only way Jones helps the troops. During meal-hours, she greets and talks with the Soldiers, often going from table to table to share stories and jokes.

    "If I can make somebody shake their head and say, 'That girl is crazy, she's just out of her mind,' they're forgetting what's bothering them. They get a few minutes reprieve."

    Ellison said Jones is always positive, open and friendly with everybody, a standard to which she expects all her team to adhere.

    It's a matter of pride, said Jones. "I chose what I wanted to do. I was 13-years-old when I decided what I wanted to do. I do what I do because I love what I do," she said.

    She knows her job is bigger than her, which is why she performs her job with both duty and joy.

    "Every meal we put out here has the potential to be the last for someone. So why shouldn't we do everything as a cook to make it the best that we can?" said Jones. "What you put on that plate and how you serve it — it matters to that person in front of you."



    Date Taken: 12.09.2009
    Date Posted: 12.09.2009 08:58
    Story ID: 42485

    Web Views: 450
    Downloads: 363