CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti — When elite military units are forced to function on limited basic needs—food, shelter and water—something as simple as a hot meal and a cold drink can really lift one’s spirit.
That’s where the airmen of the 449th Air Expeditionary Group food services team come in.
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jeffrey Shepard and Airmen 1st Class Zavier LeGrand and Christopher Morrison make up the team. Their job is to provide basic daily needs to many of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa personnel who can’t make it back to camp during regular hours.
Members working in remote areas give up certain comforts to keep the mission going, but that doesn’t mean they need to go without food.
As the supervisor of the team, Shepard said they were initially delivering Meals Ready-to-Eat to those working on different off-base construction projects. That quickly changed when he learned more about the facilities available, but serving hot meals in the field doesn’t come without a few obstacles.
“The biggest challenge we face is ensuring the safety and sanitation of our dining area,” Shepard said. “It is very difficult to maintain the high level of sanitation standards in an austere environment, but my team has managed to do that while continuing to showcase their professionalism and superior customer service skills.”
The team can go anywhere needed, but over the last few months they have found a more permanent home, he said. Currently they serve food out of a large tent that the team prepares and cleans every day before meals.
Along with the meal plans and food they pick up daily from the Camp Lemonnier galley, they keep a refrigerator stocked with beverages. They also keep an assortment of chips and snacks on hand for those working past their service hours.
“My team has put in many long days in effort to establish this dining facility,” Shepard said. “This is the first deployment for LeGrand and Morrison, and they have worked extremely hard to learn and develop their expeditionary skills. We would love to say that we do it all by ourselves, but we receive a lot of support from the galley and the units within the 449th AEG.”
Considering these two young airmen have a little more than four years in the military between them, Shepard said he is happy they are getting recognized for their outstanding work.
That recognition came when the team was given the “Hard Charger Award” to recognize their superior performance during the month, but Morrison said he doesn’t do the job for the rewards.
“The best part of the job is a smile and a thank you at the end of the day,” Morrison said.
These airmen contribute to CJTF-HOA's joint mission of stabilizing and strengthening security in East Africa.