MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The Marines of 2nd Marine Logistic Group, Combat Logistics Regiment 27’s Food Service Company began their day with the usual sounds of a kitchen. They buzzed throughout, chopping, dicing and pulling apart fruits and vegetables for the day’s meals. However, today was not a usual day and the Marines were not in their usual setting.
The cooks were preparing to have every aspect of their work judged and quantified, from their food to the layout of their facilities. Oddly enough, the Marines weren’t in a mess hall. They were in tents with rain dripping overhead hoping to qualify to compete for the Maj. Gen. W.P.T. Hill Award, a military foodservice award, and reclaim their position as victors.
The competition gave Food Service Company the opportunity to showcase what they could offer their commanders in the field – where Marines may only have Meals-Ready-To-Eat to provide the sustenance needed for their labors.
“You’re working your troops, and they’re out there doing great things,” said Capt. Joseph Fore, the company commander of Food Service Company. “They can come in, eat good chow and then they’re ready to go back to do their jobs. It’s a win-win for Marines and their command.”
“MRE’s are a fine ration,” Fore added. “But we can do better than that.”
The Marines set up a field site, which functioned as a mini-forward operating base. It included a medical area, a classroom, a command center, a berthing area with showers, along with a galley and mess hall. While they had some outside support, for instance with the installation of generators, Food Service Company built every aspect of the field site themselves, using skills they may not be able to use so close to home.
“It’s a great opportunity to showcase what we can do outside of garrison,” said Staff Sgt. Quiam Woody, the staff noncommissioned officer of the site. “It’s great to see all of the Marines doing what they were taught.”
Food service is a very adaptable field, said Master Sgt. James Hochschild, the operations officer with Food Service Company.
“Food service is one of the most rounded organizations in the Marine Corps,” said Hochschild. “We are self sufficient. While most Marine occupational specialties deal with specific tasks, we can do whatever tasks we have to do to support ourselves in a field environment.”
They faced many challenges with their field site. Storms and lightning meant Marines had to be pulled from the site for safety reasons leading to significantly less preparation time than expected.
The chief cook, Sgt. Christopher Womack, oversaw the moving parts within the galley.
“Food service is more than dropping a bag in hot water,” said Womack. “We’re capable of much more.”
It’s important for units to be able to sustain themselves while maintaining combat capabilities, said Gunnery Sgt. Morris Mayfield, the operations chief of Food Service Company. However, most field messes set up in deployed operations are much smaller.
“This shows that in a realistic scenario we can do what we have to maintain the fight,” said Mayfield.
The company would also be able to do so without sacrificing the quality of their food. Their field mess hall featured a salad and fruit bar with crisp grapes, juicy watermelon chunks, bright peppers and everything else needed to create the perfect salad. The main meals included chicken à la king, rice, peas, cornbread and shrimp Creole.
“You can get the exact same quality (in the field) as you would inside of a dining facility,” said Hoschild.
Hoschild, along with most of the other Marines present, feels food is a primary cause of motivation for troops.
“They’re out there in the field, and the only thing they’re looking forward to is getting in the rack and getting a hot meal. It’s what we’re going to provide for them,” added Hoschild.
The Marines of Food Service Company worked on the meal throughout the morning, and served the trays to the weary Marines in front of them. They cooked and fed the masses before they were able to sit down and enjoy the taste of their own labors.
Food Service Company passed the qualifying round and is now able to represent II Marine Expeditionary Force when they compete against the rest of the Marine Corps for the Maj. Gen. W.P.T. Hill Award for best field mess.