PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Service members entering the Mountain Top Cafe dining facility, on Forward Operating Base Lightning, Afghanistan, are greeted by a welcome and familiar face.
U.S. Army Sgt. Richard Ellsworth, a food service specialist assigned to Company G, 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), is the dining facility noncommisioned officer-in-charge and liason between the military and the DFAC contractor.
Ellsworth, a native of Tucson, Ariz., has been serving in the Army for 14 years. After serving in the Arizona National Guard, Ellsworth decided to join the active Army as job opportunities dwindled.
“From a patriotic standpoint, I want to fight for my country, be in the top one percent that serve and keep the U.S. safe; that’s why I serve,” said Ellsworth. “The school, healthcare and retirement benefits are nice, but you serve because you want to serve.”
Out of the five military occupational skills Ellsworth has trained for, being an infantryman was his favorite. Between 2007 and 2008 Ellsworth was deployed to FOB Goode, just a couple miles down the road from his current assignment.
“The work and adrenaline rush of going on missions was exciting,” said Ellsworth. “The camaraderie [with infantryman] is better than most units.”
After four years away from Paktya Province, Ellsworth is back to his old stomping grounds. With his new job he has a schedule that keeps him busy for the better part of each day.
While in the DFAC, Ellsworth ensures that guests meet the standards to include: wearing the proper uniform, washing hands before entering and proper storage of weapons while eating. In the evenings, Ellsworth is in charge of the dinner delivery for the Afghan security guard and Afghan linguist dining facilities. After the food is made and put into insulated containers, he delivers it to the two separate locations.
Outside of lunch and dinner shift duty, Ellsworth is in charge of meeting delivery trucks at the Afghan entry control point on FOB Thunder and escorting the driver to the FOB Lightning DFAC.
Ellsworth said it takes up to two hours for the driver to go through six security checks that include visual inspection around the truck and an inspection by dogs that are trained to smell and alert for bombs and other contraband. After verifying the shipping information, Ellsworth will have the load seals removed so the DFAC employees can stock the supplies for future meals.
“Ellsworth, like a brother, has your back,” said Blaise Madouma, a food service specialist contractor in the DFAC. “He’s down to earth, easy to talk to and easy to relate to. He’s always there for anybody and everybody.”
Twice monthly, Ellsworth conducts DFAC audits to ensure food is stored and maintained at proper temperatures, ensuring that employees are up to date with their health records, training requirements are current and that the first in-first out method is used to keep food from spoiling.
“It’s gratifying knowing that the soldier is fed and that the Soldier is happy,” said Ellsworth. “I love what I do.”