By Sgt. John Slosser
FORT PICKETT, Va., - Chow has a direct impact on troop moral and overall unit health. Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard’s D Company, 429th Brigade Support Battalion have what it takes to feed an Army.
The food service Soldiers are competing against seven other regions for the national 2006 Phillip A. Connelly Field Kitchen Food Service award. Each of these regional teams, which are graded independently, have already won their state and regional competitions.
“…So this is pretty much the Super Bowl of the competition,” said Spc. James Anderson, a field sanitation specialist for D Co., 429th BSB.
Department of the Army evaluators recently traveled to Virginia to judge the unit’s food service specialists at work among the pine trees during their field kitchen operations.
“They are looking to see how well the team works together. The cooks have so much cooking duty that they pretty much don’t leave the field kitchen until the meal is ready to be served,” Anderson said. “Even the runners are evaluated because there are only a set number of dishes. They must be washed and returned quickly to be reused for another part of the meal preparation.”
Anderson also mentioned some of the more specific points of the high-level food service competition. The unit has to prepare and serve exactly 50 meals at 12:30 p.m. They cannot have any leftover ingredients and the menu has to be followed to the “T.”
The inspectors check for criteria ranging from the safety of the preparation to how well the food tastes.
“The inspectors check the food temperature, the ice chest and freezer temperatures, even the temperatures of the water in the wash line,” said Anderson. “We make sure that the wash water is 110 degrees, the rinse is over 120 degrees and the sanitizing water is over 170 degrees.”
At 12:30 hungry soldiers were treated to hot meals of beef stroganoff, soup, salad, sides, beverages and even pineapple upside-down cake for dessert. Virginia’s Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman, was also present to taste the fruits of the culinary competition.
“I’m real proud of all of them, said CW5 Ronald Saylor, the senior food service advisor for Virginia. “This is what cooks live for. When the Soldiers in a unit enjoy the meal and give compliments to the cooks, it makes their day!”
Although the final judging has yet to take place, the unit is confident that they did their best. The winning unit will get to send representatives to Kansas City, Mo., where several lucky Soldiers will receive scholarships to advance their skills at a culinary arts school.
“They have worked real hard. The cooks, the kitchen patrols, the guys working the equipment have all been essential to getting to this level of success,” said Saylor. “Not one of them has had a negative thing to say or a negative viewpoint. Their attitudes and approach have been great! I hope we can keep it up because this mission is important!”