JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Soldiers from 46th Aviation Support Battalion, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade dining facility tested their capabilities in the first round of the field kitchen category of the Army’s Philip A. Connelly competition, June 25, at a training site on Joint-Base Lewis-McChord.
This stage of the competition prepared the 16th CAB field site dining facility to compete at the U.S. Army Forces Command round. The winners there will move on to the finals at the Department of the Army.
“The importance of the competition is to identify food service excellence. In particular with the field category, you have to take your organic equipment, you have to use your resources and you have to go out and set up a doctrinally-sound field site,” said Sgt. Maj. Ricky Gaines, 1st Corps chief food operations management noncommissioned officer and competition judge.
The team consisted of nine food service specialists, two combat medics and seven support soldiers whom all worked together to prepare a site capable of giving top-level food support to soldiers training in the field or deployed.
“This is like my family out here because we have been doing this over a month now. It’s made us a lot closer,” said Sgt. 1st Class Denny D. Joseph, field site noncommissioned officer-in-charge.
Preparation of the field site for the competition started May 13 as soldiers cleared and beautified an area of operations that would accommodate nine tented sections to include a containerized kitchen, dining area, field sanitation location, wash tent and motor pool.
“It’s great to see all of your NCOs sitting right beside you, filling up sandbags with you. If the higher-ups get dirty, they’re going to motivate the soldiers to work harder,” said Spc. Michael Royster, CK cook.
“They came out here to an area that was undefined and made it into what it is today. All of the other commands would be able to come out and see what a field site should look like,” Gaines said. “Also, all of the other food service communities should come and see the work that they put into the site.”
The field site brought on a scenario that took soldiers away from their normal food preparation tasks inside a dining facility on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
“Out here the distance between everything is much different than in the dining facility. You have to run over here and over there to get stuff that you need, which makes it a little more stressful,” Joseph said.
“One of the biggest things when we come out to the field is sanitation and hygiene. We also have to make sure that they [team] is trained on how to work the generators and other equipment like the MBU [modern burner unit],” said Staff Sgt. Darnell L Mullen, field site shift leader.
Noncommissioned officers within the unit made a constant effort to prepare their soldiers for any situation.
“We usually try to do training every Thursday back in the rear and try to incorporate a new piece of field equipment that we don’t use every day so that they are ready when we do go to the field or deploy,” Mullen said.
“They [soldiers] have been to the field before and trained before. It’s just getting back in the routine of doing their jobs in the field by the book,” Joseph said.
Judges from the 1st Corps food operations management section evaluated the 16th CAB team and their site during a breakfast and lunch meal where they critiqued food preparation, sanitation, regulation and standard operating procedure compliance, organization and team work.
“One of the biggest things is perfecting the meal and serving to a level to win at DA,” Joseph said.
In order to portray a realistic scenario for the competition, 46th Aviation Support Brigade transported more than 50 soldiers to the site for each meal.
The field site team of 18 soldiers was responsible for maintaining security at entry and exit points, conducting checks on all equipment for serviceability, stocking and supporting the CK with food and sterile kitchen supplies and cleaning the area of operations.
“We have a great team. We have soldiers out here who don’t complain and go out there and get things done with initiative,” Mullen said. “Part of that falls back onto the NCOs to motivate the soldiers.”
Following a judging period that lasted over five hours, the 1st Corps judges met with the 16th CAB food service staff where they praised the team and talked about how to prepare for the next level.
“From my perspective, what I see is that they have been training together and identified one another’s strengths and weaknesses,” Gaines said. “They’re working as a team and bonding as a team to not be in disarray.”
“I think we all understand each other a lot more now because we all want to win so that we can represent 16th CAB and Fort Lewis at the next levels,” Joseph said.
With the 1st Corps judging complete, the 16th CAB food service field site team immediately started preparing for the FORSCOM-level judging, which is scheduled for the middle of July.