FORT IRWIN, CA, UNITED STATES
FORT IRWIN, Calif. - Once again the 4th Brigade Combat Team is at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., to prepare for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. As most of the Paratroopers attend classes and conduct training, one group is deep into their mission. The cooks of the Fury Brigade.
“We are feeding approximately 2,400 people per day, about 1200 per meal considering we only serve breakfast and dinner,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Bridgeman, a food service specialist in 4th BCT, who has been at Bragg since 2005.
All troopers here at NTC face many challenges during this training cycle. Some of the challenges that cooks have to deal with are working with different equipment as well as having limited working space.
“The difference between cooking at NTC and Fort Bragg is the equipment. We have limited equipment which is actually simulating a war-time environment,” said Sgt. Frank Chavez, a food service specialist in 4th BCT. “The equipment makes it harder, especially when things break or burners go out. You have to make quick decisions to get the meal out on time. You have to make due with what you have.”
“The biggest concern about cooking at NTC is maintaining your cleanliness,” said Bridgeman. “There is more dust here that can possibly contaminate the food.”
“Cooking for soldiers at NTC is very demanding,” said Chavez, who has competed in cooking competitions at Fort Lee, Va., as a member of Fort Bragg’s Culinary Arts Team and finished in 3rd place.
The cooks here are very professional and have been working very long hours here at NTC.
“We have been working 18 to 20 hours per day,” said Bridgeman. “We are usually here at 3:00 a.m. and we don’t get out of here until 9:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. every night.”
“People who think cooks don’t really work are out of their mind,” said Marine Lance Cpl. David McClure, an embarkation specialist, assigned to Okinawa, Japan, who is helping out as kitchen patrol. “These guys are up at 2:30 a.m. every morning.”
“I love being here working with the active duty soldier’s. This is my 3rd NTC rotation,” said Spc. Eleanor Perez, a food service specialist with a National Guard unit out of Goldsboro, N.C.
Soldiers are spending this time at NTC so that they are properly trained and better prepared to deploy without any setbacks when the time comes.
“The hands on training is the best thing about being here. We actually get to cook instead of serving catered food,” said Perez, who has also spent time on active duty.
“I have worked with different branches before,” said Chavez, who has also been assigned to Alaska and Hawaii. “The National Guard cooks are actually good or want to be good, but they don’t get the training that we have so its good to pass on the knowledge that we have.”
To complete the mission the cooks have a variety of different people helping them out. There is a 10-man team that consists of active duty soldiers, National Guardsmen and Marines who serve as cooks as well as KPs.
“KPs are vital to our mission, we don’t have enough cooks to do all the cleaning and sanitation that needs to happen to maintain our operation,” said Bridgeman. “Without the KPs the lines will be longer. I would have to take cooks away from cooking to make sure that the sanitation job is happening.”
“The KPs have all worked hard and have been motivated, we thank them everyday,” said Bridgeman.
“I love being a 82nd Airborne Div. cook,” said Chavez. “Our mission will never fail, we will feed the troops and accomplish the mission. Airborne all the way.”
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This work, Cooks serve it up at NTC, by SSG Terrance Payton, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.