News: ‘Iron Eagles’ grab & go takes flight
Story by Sgt. Ida Irby
EL PASO, Texas - It is 11:30 a.m. and the first of many busy soldiers walks through the door to the Grab-and-Go facility at the Area 3 ‘Iron Eagle’ Dining Facility. With little time to spare, Spc. Jarib Jimenez, 1st Armored Division, Combat Aviation Brigade, loads salads into the refrigerator for the afternoon rush. For many soldiers on Fort Bliss, to include Staff Sgt. Jamone Fields, 1st AD CAB, there is not enough time in the day and he must decide between eating and completing a mission.
“I have about 10 minutes, to grab something,” said Fields. “Believe it or not; this DFAC [Area 3] is pretty good. I come here for most lunches during the week.”
“Grab-and-Go facilitates the busy schedules of service members [during breakfast and lunch] who come to the dining facility and cannot sit to eat because of prior engagements,” said Master Sgt. Vicente Mendoza, 1st AD CAB, brigade food service supervisor.
Army Dining Facility managers have been adding Grab-and-Go facilities to DFACs in order to support the modern Soldier by replicating the speedy food service in popular eateries.
The Grab-and-Go facility at the 1st AD CAB Dining Facility on Biggs Army Air Field has been available to family, department of defense workers, and all service members since its opening Oct. 12, 2011 on East Biggs, Fort Bliss. The ‘Iron Eagles’ Grab-and-Go is a 90 day pilot program that personnel can utilize on the fly.
“Grab-and-Go is a short order service that Soldiers can grab quickly and be on their way. We base our meals off of whatever the soldiers are eating the most of,” which includes: burgers, hot-dogs, homemade pizza, french-fries, fresh fruit, Caesar salads, and desserts, said Sgt. 1st Class Nardello D. Keith, 1st AD CAB dining facility manager.
“There are a couple of ways we decide what soldiers like to eat: First, cooks interact with the patrons. We read their body language when reacting to the food on the line. Second, I compare what items go fast to items that don’t get eaten,” Keith said.
“The increased demand for the Grab-and-Go has helped keep this facility financed,” said Warrant Officer Danie M. Jerry, 1st AD CAB, brigade food service advisor. “We went from serving 30 soldiers to almost 100 soldiers during lunch hours.”
All DFAC services are provided “based on the need of meal card holders,” said Jerry. “If we open the facility and fail to meet the utilization rate it is not cost effective to have this facility. As long as the soldiers come and eat we will keep it open.”
Grab-&-Go is appearing at other dining facilities on Fort Bliss to help increase the headcount. As reported in, Dining facilities strive to overcome low attendance, Feb. 2, 2012 Fort Bliss Monitor, the Area 1 DFAC works to increase attendance by making meals that bring soldiers back into the military DFAC.
“The facility at the Area 1 DFAC competes with local eateries, giving the soldiers exactly what they ask for: food on the go.” said Sgt. 1st Class Jose Ferrer, HHC 15th Special Troops Brigade, Area 1 consolidated dining facility manager. “My philosophy is, I am here to serve Soldiers. The building is here for soldiers. Soldiers are my customer.”
“I’m trying different ideas and the soldiers say they see a difference. I am hopeful to see an increase in headcount. The Grab-and-Go makes a difference in the increased utilization rate,” said Chief Warrant Officer Jovita Fenwick, 15th STB, Area 1 DFAC food technician.
“If the soldiers are eating burgers and tacos on the economy, and we have the same capabilities to give that to the Soldiers-why wouldn’t we?” said Fenwick.
The Area 3, ‘Iron Eagles’ DFAC is slated to begin a pilot opening of midnight chow, as reported by Jerry. The opening and continued service is based on the needs and use of meal card holders in the Fort Bliss Area.
The 1st Aviation DFAC is one of four dining facilities on Fort Bliss built to serve over 1,000 personnel per meal. 1st CAB AD, is meeting a 39 percent utilization rate, based off a monthly utilization count.
According to Jerry, the managers at the ‘Iron Eagles’ unanimously agree: The Grab-and-Go is affordable, speedy, healthy, and convenient for the modern day soldier on the go.
The facility’s hours are 7:30 to 9 a.m. for breakfast, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. for lunch, and 5 to 6:30 p.m. for dinner.