CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Marines from 8th Engineer Support Battalion FC 303 Messhall and 2d Force Service Support Group (FSSG), recently won the Marine Corps' top food-service award competition.
Every year, in an effort to promote excellence in food service, a Corps-wide competition takes place and the winner takes home the prestigious Capt. Edward F. Ney / Maj. Gen. W.P.T. Hill award.
"The command jumped right into the mission of winning during the inspections," said Master Sgt. Anthony T. McGeorge, messhall chief, 8th ESB.
"Winning took everybody working as a team doing whatever needed to be done and going a step above to accomplish our mission," said Sgt. John F. Vandruff a subsistence clerk with 8th ESB.
While representing II Marine Expeditionary Force, these competitors took on the elements of Mother Nature while standing multiple inspections in the field, according to McGeorge.
"In August we were picked to represent II Marine Expeditionary Force and later the East Coast," said McGeorge from Roanoke, Va.
"I knew we were going to win because we have some of the best cooks in the Corps working in 8th ESB," said Vandruff of Malvern, Ohio.
"The cooks will get personal awards and the messhall proudly displays the trophy for winning the best field mess within II MEF," McGeorge continued. "But, this award goes to more than the cooks. Without the support of the messmen and the other Marines and Sailors within 8th ESB this award wouldn't be possible."
"I knew the field mess looked good but I didn't know how it needed to look to win," he said. "What put us over the top was listening to the advice of the senior Marines who have been up for or won this award before, and team work," he said.
Messhall FC 303 had an advantage that other facilities didn't have -- 'home-team advantage.'
"We are in an engineer battalion. They are here to build and that's what we had to do from the ground up -- we built a field mess," McGeorge said. "We could make things happen without going through another battalion for support. We have everything we need right here. All I needed was the know-how to set up a field mess and vision."
Presentation of the awards will be held at the International Food Service Executives Association (IFSEA) conference in March in Anaheim, Calif.
The Marine Corps and IFSEA will provide awards to the finalists in each competitive category. The winning unit's mess officer and mess manager for each category will be guests at the IFSEA conference.
The Secretary of the Navy and the IFSEA, a food service professional organization comprised of distinguished industry executives, cosponsor the Hill Memorial Awards Program.
There are four categories in the competition which to win; best messhall, best messhall runner-up, best field mess and best reserve field mess.
While all the facets of the food service program were evaluated, prime consideration was given to food preparation and serving techniques; garnishing and merchandising of food; messhall d?cor; palatability of menu item; compliance with applicable regulations and patron reaction to the service provided by the messhall.
"It is extremely competitive," said Master Gunnery Sgt. Kenneth C. Curtis, food service inspector of Shelby, N.C. "Winning the award is just like winning the Super Bowl."