News: Though far away, Reading, Pa., is close for two in Qatar
Story by Jason Chudy
CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar - This Army camp west of the Qatari capital of Doha may be thousands of miles away from Reading, Pa., but two camp dining facility staff members found hometown ties much closer than that.
Food Program Manager Chief Warrant Officer 2 Wayne Niehus and Dining Facility Manager Joe Colon started working together in April 2010 and quickly found that they shared the same Pennsylvania hometown.
“I consider Reading home,” said Colon, who moved there nearly 20 years ago. “My son, Joseph, was born in Reading. That place helped me out a lot.”
Colon, who works for ITT Systems Corporation, attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., and has been working in various military dining facilities, including Baghdad, Iraq, since 2003.
Niehus is deployed to Qatar from Reading, where he lives with his wife, Bridget, a retired Army lieutenant colonel.
“I’m going back on R&R (rest and recuperation leave) right after Christmas,” he said.
Colon and Niehus, who had volunteered to return to active duty after retiring 20 years ago, have taken their common Reading ties and used them to build an award-winning dining facility.
The facility was recently named the second best in the Army during the 2011 Philip A. Connelly Award Competition.
Colon said that their being recognized as one of the top facilities in the Army is very rewarding.
“We care and cook with love for the soldiers,” said Colon. “We don’t look at this as just a job. We treat it like it’s our second home; we eat here.”
The facility feeds mainly base personnel, but the camp is also the home of the military’s Rest and Recreation Pass Program for troops coming in from throughout the Middle East and Central Asia.
“We take care of Soldiers coming here from Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait,” Niehus said, “some coming in from battle. They’re entitled to the best we can offer.”
And part of that “best we can offer,” Niehus said, are products from Reading: Berk’s meats and Sweet Streets desserts.
“Those two things bring a little bit of home to me and Joe in Qatar,” he said. “We’re giving a sample of products from our hometown to thousands of soldiers here.”