Ribbon-cutting ceremony marks opening of new, improved mess hall

5 Oct 2011 | Pfc. Nik Phongsisattanak

Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune officials marked the grand opening of Mess Hall 227 during a ribbon-cutting ceremony aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Oct. 5.

The mess hall is the largest aboard the base and it is the first two-story mess hall in the Department of Defense, according to Master Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Middlebrooks, Senior food technician with MCB Camp Lejeune, Marine Corps Installations East.

"We have to reinvest into the future," said Middlebrooks. "This mess hall is the result of (the Marine Corps 202k increase), many of who will be utilizing the facility. It's one of several mess halls that are under construction here."

Many of the mess halls on MCB Camp Lejeune were built during World War II and were becoming outdated, but base officials are currently in the process of replacing them with new, college-style mess halls.

"The Marine Corps is transitioning," said Middlebrooks. "This is a volunteer force and quality of life for Marines is just as important as technology that evolves for new weapons systems. Everything has to be balanced, and (keep) pace."

Mess Hall 227 replaced Mess Hall 9 and 211. The two-story building is able to seat 500 people and offers foods such as Mongolian barbecue, Panini sandwiches, pasta and a pizza station. Many Marines have said the best part is they can eat as much as they want.

Middlebrooks said the Mongolian grill itself is so huge that they had to crane it into the building before the roof was built.

"Thirty years ago, there was only one meat, one starch and the beverage choice was water, coffee and maybe tea," said Middlebrooks. "There weren't alternatives to what you had to eat."

The new class of mess halls across base provides a variety of foods, relaxing atmosphere and in addition to those great features, it is also Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified, equipped with things such as solar-powered water heaters and metering devices to monitor energy usage.

Charles Cone, the base food service officer with MCB Camp Lejeune, said the new mess hall is state-of-the-art. They will feed service members and be energy efficient.

It takes a significant amount of planning and team effort to construct and manage this dining facility. The normal culinary experts all have to have the minimum requirement for food preparation serving, but there is an executive chief who manages this facility.

"Not very many installations in the Marine Corps go under construction for things such as this," said Middlebrooks. "That's the installation commander saying ‘I'm concerned about the quality of life of my Marines' and doing something to improve it. I've been in every mess hall in the Marine Corps, and there's nothing like our two-story mess hall."