Troops eat well, even on front lines
By Spec Chris McCann
2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div.
CAMP STRIKER, Iraq -- “An army marches on its stomach.” Napoleon observed centuries ago, and it this will remain true until mechanical warfighters are created.
Keeping an army – or even a battalion – fed is not a simple task. The dining facility at Mahmudiyah feeds the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, and the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, both of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, and attached troops three meals a day, seven days a week, said Chief Warrant Officer Shawn Lashbrook, the brigade’s food service advisor.
The Polar Bears of 4-31, like their namesake, require a great deal of sustenance while on their constant missions.
Every two weeks, for example, the dining facility goes through 1,320 pounds of steaks, 1,250 pounds of hamburger patties, 270 cases of soda and 450 cases of ice cream.
Food is ordered online and trucked from Kuwait to Mahmudiyah in refrigerated vans.
For the Soldiers of the 2nd BCT, the news that they would be sent to Mahmudiyah implied that they’d be living on Meals, Ready to Eat indefinitely, so the Polar Bear Café was a welcome surprise.
“It’s just fine,” said Pfc. Kristina McCaddon, a communications specialist assigned to the 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, and a native of Seaside, Calif. “It’s better than I expected, and better than MREs.”
“My favorite is Mexican food,” offered Spc. Joshua Scott, a signal noncommissioned officer from Tioga Center, N.Y., stationed at Mahmudiyah with the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment. “Sometimes they have fajitas and enchiladas.”
And even if the food weren’t good, the dining facility is the safest place to be in the event of an attack, Lashbrook said. The building is largely composed of gabion baskets filled with rocks and dirt, despite its unassuming plywood walls, and layers of sandbags on the roof provide protection for the occupants.
There are plans to increase the force protection capabilities, however, like increasing security for those who come to sate their hungry bellies and more equipment for the cooks.
Spc. Robert Conner of Johnson City, Tenn., explained that the life of a food service specialist isn’t an easy one.
“It’s pretty hard,” he said. “Eleven hour or nine hour shifts, seven days a week. Even in (garrison), we work weekends while everybody else is off.”
A food service specialist works breakfast and lunch one day, dinner another, he explained.
“Dinner is harder, because you’re preparing a full meal,” he said. Lunch and breakfast offer more prepared foods – cereal, fruit, or heat-and-serve foods like egg rolls and pizza. Dinner can be almost anything, from pork chops to stew.
Spc. Tavon Pettway of Bridgeport, Conn., finds the work difficult, but rewarding.
“It’s nice that the Soldiers appreciate it,” he said. “They give a lot of compliments. We have a couple of guys that always come by and say thanks.”
Some standards on the menu include Italian food nights with pasta and traditional dishes, Mexican, including tacos, and surf-and-turf on Friday evenings, complete with lobster, crab, and steak.
Even if Soldiers are out on a mission and can’t make it in for a meal, the staff provides what they can.
“They leave it open during the day so you can come in and get food,” said Sgt. Kenyon Hunt of 2-15, a native of Phoenix.
“Everybody seems to like it,” Lashbrook said. “I was down there the other day and everybody had nothing but praise for the Mahmudiyah dining facility.”
The dining facility serves about 2,700 meals each day, seating 250 Soldiers at a time, with 19 food service specialists.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Troops eat well, even on front lines