BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – In the desert of southern Afghanistan, a tiny base hosts hundreds of military personnel, civilians and contractors. The cooks of the 3rd Infantry Division Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade work long hours every day to provide quality food for them in spite of the austere conditions in the field dining facility.
For a time, one dining facility on Camp Shorab served all of the personnel stationed there. As missions changed and more military personnel were sent to the camp, that facility could barely keep up with the influx.
“Task Force Southwest requested assistance for validating requirements for renovating the DFAC,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Yessenia Johnson, the 3rd Inf. Div. RSSB food advisor. “They were operating a 1000 man facility and we decided they need a 1500 man facility.”
The DynCorp International DFAC prepares food for its patrons, but even adding an outdoor seating area couldn’t mitigate the large amount of customers that relied on the facility. The RSSB food advisory team saw a need to assist with feeding the populous of Shorab and reduce the load on DynCorp employees.
“To make up for the Security Forces Assistance Brigade’s increase in personnel, additional field feeding equipment was needed,” Johnson said. “The RSSB was tasked to operate Expeditionary TRICON Kitchen Systems (ETKS) and feed 400 people per meal.”
Now, a small team from the RSSB mans the Field Feeding Mess tent, providing breakfast and dinner all week. The team consists of Soldiers who cook, serve food and manage rations.
“At first, you never know what you’re going to get coming to a new place,” said Spc. Keshone Lisbon, a culinary specialist assigned to the 3rd Inf. Div. RSSB. “I feel like being out here these last couple of months has turned me into a good cook.”
When they first deployed to Afghanistan, these cooks were part of the security platoon for the brigade. For five months, they worked outside of their occupational specialty to protect the United States Forces – Afghanistan compound. When they were called back to their original job, it was a chance to improve themselves in their original specialty.
“I was cooking well in garrison, but I never had the opportunity to cook on a deployment,” Lisbon said. “So having that experience, I know it is going to make me a better culinary specialist in the long run.”
A primary difference between cooking in garrison versus a deployment is the amount of resources available for meal production. The Soldiers cook out of ETKS, roughly half the size of a shipping container, to produce meals for the hundreds of patrons that frequent their feed tent.
While it is a far cry from the functionality of a DFAC, the cooks continue to prepare high-quality meals for the patrons of the ETKS. The RSSB Soldiers make the most out of their situation, knowing that this is an experience they can take back to the states.
Lisbon said that they try to give out the best food in this austere situation. He said that every day they get stronger as a team, and he looks forward to his team being stronger as a whole when they get back to garrison.