The cold air vaporized the Marines breath and steam escaped from the boiling water in their field kitchen.
In a tight tent packed with dishes, the Marines with Food Service Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 27, 2nd Marine Logistics Group prepared a warm meal for cold troops here Dec. 11.
The company came out here with two missions. The first was to feed the surrounding units in the field with hot meals in support of their training evolution. The second was to compete against food service specialists from 2nd Marine Division and 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing in the Maj. Gen. W.P.T. Hill Field Mess Competition.
The W.P.T. Hill Award was established in 1985 to improve food service operation and recognize the best field and garrison messes in the Marine Corps. Competitors are judged on areas such as operations, sanitation, taste and quality of food.
“The overall intent is to set up a site and to have a training event that helps us hone our skills in a competitive environment against units across the Marine Corps,” said Capt. Joseph L. Fore, a McMinnville, Ore., native and Food Service Co. commander. “This is a competition, but at the same time we are feeding CLR-27.
“[For] many of these competitions, you just set up a site and bus Marines out and they eat and go away. We actually have been out here for several weeks, feeding Communication Co. last week and CLR-27 while they conduct their command post exercise. So it’s been a duel mission out here.”
The Food Service Co. Marines prepared shrimp jambalaya, chicken creole, rice, cornbread, oatmeal cookies, corn, brownies, fruit cocktail and salad, along with juices and coffee to drink.
“This gives us the opportunity to showcase ourselves and show what we are capable of,” said Gunnery Sgt. Izra Ali, the officer in charge. “These Marines work in the mess hall day-in and day-out and [it can] get monotonous at times doing the same thing over and over. They come out here with a change of scenery and change of gear. It gives them a chance to be versatile. We are garrison and field so we have to be proficient on both sides of the house; so this is valuable training.”
The Marines faced an unexpected challenge when the expeditionary field kitchen was forced to shut down Dec. 10, but they did not let that faze them.
Responding quickly, the Marines reverted to using the enhanced tray rationed heating system to overcome this complication and complete the remaining meals in light of the competition.
“I was upset at first but at the same time we learned from it,” said Ali, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native. “It showed how we could adapt to the situation. We were getting ready to prep dinner and we had to stop everything we were doing and change gear. It took a few hours but we were able to adapt and we have our meal put out exactly as planned and it was a good learning curve.”
The food was displayed and Marines and sailors started to pour in as they tried for themselves the competing dish.
“They are very grateful with the weather being how it is and to come here and have something hot on their plate,” said Ali. “One of the things that boost morale in the field is hot chow and that is what we do. We are a service and we try to make their lives a little happier when they are out here.”