By Maj. John A. Kaeo Mott
MAZAR-E-SHARIF, Afghanistan - “Servers on line!” bellows out from Staff Sgt. Alexander Joseph across the new U.S. Forces Freedom Rings Dining Facility as a hungry crowd anxiously waits outside.
Staff Sgt. Joseph is the Freedom Rings DFAC Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge with a team of 19 cooks and servers augmented with kitchen patrol personnel. His team is responsible for satisfying all the expectations and appetites of the restless mob outside. Servers man every station and start uncovering a feast that runs along both sides of the DFAC.
Music plays in the background as Capt. Megan Burke, Company D Commander for Task Force Mustang, dances over to her position. Capt. Burke decided to serve the soldiers on this festive occasion to help spread and share some holiday cheer at the start of the brigade’s twelve month deployment.
Staff Sgt. Joseph’s team has worked hard preparing a grand feast for all to enjoy. The DFAC NCOIC humbly gave credit to his team saying “There are no secrets to success,” adding “It’s the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”
The DFAC is filled with red, white, and blue in every corner. Decorations seem to explode from the ceiling and walls bringing a feeling of patriotism and pride on this Independence Day. On the front doors to the DFAC hang posters of the Statue of Liberty, proudly holding the Declaration of Independence, a reminder to all the importance of the mission in Afghanistan. The serving lines and seating areas are lined with “Let Freedom Ring” decorations for patrons to enjoy while they dine.
The celebratory 4th of July menu includes shrimp cocktail, steamship round, BBQ ribs, T-bone steak, lobster, chicken, BBQ chicken, fried scallops, fried shrimp, corn-on-the-cob, assorted vegetables, macaroni and cheese, freshly cut assorted fruits, and almost a dozen cakes and pies decorated in red, white and blue. Ice-cold sodas, Gatorades, juices, iced tea, and beverages stand ready to quench the thirst of all the patrons.
Outside, the crowd stands in anticipation of the doors opening. There’s excitement in the air as you hear discussions of 4th CAB’s first dinner meal in the new DFAC. Some soldiers can’t wait to eat lobster while others say they were told there’s a huge dessert table they can’t wait to see.
As the doors swing open, “Come on in!” rings out across the crowd. Soldiers, airmen, Marines, Department of the Army civilians, and contractors all squeeze together to get closer to their goal. The first person in line steps through the door as “Happy 4th of July” becomes the welcome of the evening.
Tables are filled with discussion of the feast exceeding their expectations. “The food was amazing!” said Private 2nd Class Casey Wagner, a fueler from Company A, 404th Aviation Support Battalion Provider. “The DFAC has come a long way-it’s a huge morale booster” he adds as he leaves. Another crowd gathers just outside the exit as discussions continue about how the dinner meal was the culminating event for the day. Private 1st Class Jeffrey Cox enjoyed the holiday dinner, but appreciated the fact that he could have eggs, sausage, and ham for a more traditional American breakfast in the new DFAC.
The 4th CAB S4 Ground, Maj. Todd Brauckmiller, commented “It’s amazing what an American soldier can do under austere conditions to feed all American and multi-national military and civilians,” adding “they went from nothing to a full-fledged DFAC in less than 72 hours,” a capstone allowing American forces to celebrate Independence Day with a well-deserved meal.
The Freedom Rings DFAC is scheduled to remain open throughout the 4th CAB’s deployment offering breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a midnight meal to accommodate all shifts.