News: Feeding the fight: An Italian, American cooks' tale of operations in Bala Murghab
Story by Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace
BALA MURGHAB, Afghanistan - For more than a year there have been soldiers fighting on the front lines of a valley in northern Baghdis province, Afghanistan.
These coalition soldiers fight from Forward Operating Base Todd and 16 other combat outposts that together form a security bubble. That bubble protects the Bala Murghab valley from the insurgent-infested villages just outside the bubble's perimeter.
Insurgents terrorize villagers and launch frequent attacks against coalition forces.
Like anywhere, in BMG a proper diet and rest is vital to keep the coalition in top mental and physical shape. Here a small team of three U.S. soldiers and a half dozen Italians feed the fight.
According to Cpl. Maj. Jon Davide, an Italian 'Alpini,' or Mountain Regimental soldier, the joint Italian-American mess hall at BMG serves about 350 people a day.
That's roughly 1,050 meals they prepare daily using one oven, one hand-made pasta range and a real, home-made, wood-burning brick oven for baking fresh bread.
"These guys don't use measuring cups or even recipes when they prepare a meal. They cook with their hearts," said U.S. Army Pfc. Nathan Arlotta, a food service specialist deployed from the 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.
Belonging to an infantry division, Arlotta has many friends who put their lives on the line daily, the least he can do is have a hot meal waiting for them when they return.
"Our guys spend months at a time out in the combat outposts," said Arlotta. "We like to give them something a little extra than their normal Meals-Ready-to-Eat and send freshly cooked, nutritious food out to them."
All meals are cooked from recipes that soldiers bring from their home towns back in Italy, explained Alpini Cpl. Savi Maurizio, adding that the American cooks add their equal share of food ideas.
Ingredients are airdropped in by coalition air forces.
FOB Todd received a large supply, Dec. 6, during a massive U.S Air Force C-17 Globemaster III drop, and a smaller U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules drop, Dec. 7.
Arlotta explained that there had been several U.S., Canadian, and Italian airdrops recently and that coalition soldiers are eating well.
That's not always the case.
FOB Todd was blacked out Dec. 6 when one of the two generators that power it broke. As a result, the mess hall staff had to cook without power, resulting in a very small meal. Still, MREs were available to any troop desiring one.
Being located in the freezing Afghan mountains also proves to be challenging, said Arlotta. He described times when he took meat out of the freezer to thaw out, but wasn't successful because the freezing air outside was colder than inside the freezer.
Regardless of how long his day may be or what challenges lie ahead, Arlotta said he rises to the challenge because he knows that his fellow soldiers rely on him.
"You work with what you have`," said Arlotta. "We hit some rough patches with our Holiday meals but took each challenge one step at a time, and put our hearts into the task at hand. In the end, regardless the challenge, we'll come through."
After returning from a long foot patrol in harm's way, a hot and healthy meal with fresh-baked bread helps ease the burden.
Sgt. Christopher Mcglone, 4th ID Infantryman, really doesn't care who cooks the food, he said, explaining "it's just nice to get back here and have hot food waiting. Not every soldier is this fortunate."
This work, Feeding the fight: An Italian, American cooks' tale of operations in Bala Murghab, by SMSgt Kevin Wallace, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.