December 6, 2003, 07:47

Maintenance Co. competes for Connelly Award

By Spc. Stephanie Willer
Staff Writer

First Cook Sgt. 1st Class Gregory R. Mason stirs up his pot of potatoes. (Photo by Spc. Stephanie Willer, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office) Click HERE to see more photos.

BLACKSTONE, Va - You may not think that there's a lot of planning that goes into preparing a noon meal for 50 soldiers, but there is - especially when you're competing for a coveted award given by the United States Army for expertise and excellence in food service operations.


On Nov. 22, 2003, the 3467th Maintenance Company competed for the Thirty-Sixth Annual Phillip A. Connelly Awards Program at the National Level for the Reserve Component Field Kitchen category. Several soldiers from the 1 st Bn., 116 th Infantry Regiment were also there to support kitchen patrol, which included preparation of the meal and sanitation.


The Phillip A. Connelly Award is a Department of the Army food service program. The International Food Service Executives Association (IFSEA) and the Department of the Army cosponsor the program, which is administered by the Army Center of Excellence, Subsistence (ACES). The program is intended to achieve improvements in the quality of food service.

The Connelly competition is also divided into four categories, three of which pertain to active Army forces. They are: small dinning facilities (serving 200 or less), large dinning facilities (serving 201 or more), and Division Field Kitchens, for Army National Guard soldiers.


According to the National Guard Senior Food Service Technician, CW5 Harold W. Jaquett, “This process narrows down every state that has an organic unit. We recommend that units participate, since it is a training program.”  


The training program is implemented by the Army Quarter Master Center at Fort Lee, Va. All cooks who participate in the competition, at some point, have undergone some formal training at the center.   It is actually a prerequisite that all team members, which consist of a team chief and two evaluators, must have a 92G30 Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) to be on the committee. In addition, Warrant officers must have competed in the Connelly program and are familiar with the Connelly procedures and requirements.   The team consisted of Jaquett, Mr. Richard Paul Martinez (civilian) who was the representative of the IFSEA, and Active Army Sgt. Maj. Clinton B. Ford with the 82 nd Division Food Service.   


The team had come along way to get to this level of competition.   The competition, which began technically on the respective fiscal year of FY03 which would be Oct. 1, 2002, started on the state level.   The unit had to first move-up the ranks and gain a place on the regional level, which was divided into seven regions within their category, before they could be considered a potential nominee for the national level.   Jaquett said, “However, the number that was originally, Seven, but it dropped down to six regions due to a mobilization by the Caribou, Maine unit, who was deployed before they could compete.”  


The regional process has taken the judges from Mississippi to Indiana, from North Dakota to Louisiana and to their most recent stop in Blackstone, Va. “The competition will be wrapping up soon with one more region to cover,” said Jaquett. Adding, “Our last stop is in Nevada.”


Jaquett said, “If this setup was in the field, it would take about 6 to 10 days to have it at this level which includes; latrines, a lighting areas and sanitation. Adding, “A big part of the set-up is continuity of the area as well.  


The requirements for the competition may not always dictate that of an actual wartime setting, however, the goal is to try and accomplish as much of the requirements as possible. “The most important part of being a judge is to concentrate on the knowledge of the cooks, their knowledge of their equipment, their portion sizes, their required measurements and conversions and the quality of the meal they will be serving.”


In a wartime scenario, the objective is to keep the troops moving. You also need to take into consideration the temperature of the food, which is the responsibility of all food service personnel. During the competition, food sanitation made sure all of the thermometer gauges were properly calibrated.   “Food moves troops, bad food keeps them down!” said Jaquett.


According to Jaquett,   “The soldiers have performed well during this level of competition.” He also added that it took a lot of hard work to get here.   The unit, whose motto is “The best supports the rest” showed a creative edge during the competition when they decided to prepare a decorative crust for their cherry cobbler. “It was just one more added feature that makes them stick out from the rest,” said Jaquett.  


The competition began first thing in the morning.   At 7:00am, the soldiers gathered in the designated location at Ft. Pickett, which was adjacent to the Field Kitchen Site, to review the plan for the day's event and the menu . They wanted to make sure that all the necessary components to support their mission were in place.   The team was made up of ten soldiers who would be instrumental in making the meal happen.   The cooks had discussed how they would utilize the allowable variations in respect to the recipes selected.


The noon meal consisted of beef rice soup, mini-meatloaf, fried cabbage with bacon bits, potatoes au gratin, a tossed vegetable salad and cherry cobbler on the side.   All food was prepared under tight constraints.   For this competition the soldiers worked out of a Field Mobile Kitchen which didn't leave for much elbow room. Teamwork was essential for the competition to be a success. “You need to know what you are doing, or it won't work,” said Jaquett.  


According to First Cook Sgt 1 st Class Gregory R. Mason, the team decided to use mini-meatloaves in lieu of   a regular sized meatloaf   “When you create mini-loafs, you are guaranteed that the soldiers will all be getting the exact same portion size,”   With a regular meatloaf there's room for shrinkage and some serving sizes may vary.  


By midmorning, the preparations for the noon meal were well on there way.   All of the ingredients had been precisely measured and weighed. “When you are out in the field under a wartime situation, what you take with you to the field is all you have.” said Jaquett.   “You have to utilize every part of your perishables.” He added that there is a criterion for the disposal and waste of food.  


One of the terms used in food preparation is “As Purchased” which is strongly regulated.   For example, even when you shred lettuce or peel vegetables, you need to make sure that whatever you dispose of isn't part of the “As Purchased” amount.  


The Connelly competition is demanding to say the least. According to VaARNG Regulation Number 30-24, the objective of the competition is to improve the professionalism of food service personnel; provide recognition for excellence in the preparation and of serving food and to challenge soldiers to be the best among the Army food service personnel.   


The soldiers knew before going into the competition that they would need to meet these challenges if they wanted to win this coveted award. Good Luck!




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