FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. - To welcome a challenge is one thing, but to take on a challenge such as the Philip A. Connelly Awards Competition, which recognizes excellence in Army Food Service on very short notice, speaks volumes of the Alpha Company, 365th Engineer Battalion food service soldiers out of Scranton, Pa., July 22.
“Sometimes being the underdog pays off,” said Capt. Anthony Davis, commander of A Company.
Such was the case for the food service personnel in A Company who took on the Philip A. Connelly Awards Competition, Active Field Kitchen category, with a two-week notice after a food service company within the 412th Theater Engineer Command had dropped out of the competition.
“They’re amazing,” said Staff Sgt. Karen Strauss, the food operations manager at A Company, referring to the soldiers who embraced the challenge from day one.
“Every day they surprise me,” said Strauss. “They instill the drive to win, and it has reflected throughout this competition.”
Although Strauss volunteered her platoon for the mission with a two-week notice, she and her company commander, Davis, were both confident that her team had the necessary skills and confidence to win.
“I started to remember all the times we have been commended by high-ranking officials and other soldiers on our food service,” said Davis. “All I could think of was, 'everybody can’t be wrong.’”
Strauss is quick to recognize and attribute the success they have had thus far in the competition to great teamwork and the different individual skills soldiers have.
“I come from a typical Italian family, so cooking is in my blood,” said Spc. Katrina James, food service specialist with A Company. “For me, food is morale, it’s a social thing. So when you put out a good meal, it definitely improves the morale of the soldiers.”
While some warrior citizens have it in their DNA, others honed their skills in their daily profession.
“I started my cooking career when I was 16 at a local Golden Coral and worked my way up to my most recent position as a head Chef at a Country Club,” said Sgt. Christopher Young, food operations NCO, A Company.
These 15 food service specialists, who are part of A Company, have distinguished themselves among more than 300 others at the 412th TEC level and are currently competing against 14 other Major Support Commands.
“In my eyes, these soldiers were winners from the moment they decided to undertake the Philip A. Connelly Awards competition,” said Davis.
Only the top four food service teams will move on to the Department of the Army level Connelly competition phase later this year.