It may have looked like hamburgers and hot dogs on the menu, but what was really served up in the kitchen at Selfridge Air National Guard this weekend was a healthy scoop of teamwork.
A series of challenges that stemmed from several frozen pipes in the kitchen of the Dining Facility (DFAC) at Selfridge meant that the Services Flight of the 127th Force Support Squadron were unable to use many of the stoves, ovens and freezers they normally have at their disposal to prepare lunch for the hundreds of 127th Wing Airmen who eat at the facility during their monthly military weekend drill.
“Services epitomizes teamwork, so it was not a surprise at all that they were able to come together and still be able to provide a hot lunch to the wing,” said Major Camille Horne, commander of the 127th FSS.
After temperatures in the Detroit region plunged to as much as 15 degrees below zero, several pipes froze in the DFAC kitchen. As the temperatures warmed, several pipes burst, causing a flood in the kitchen. The flood caused a large freezer, holding most of the food that was planned to be served to the troops over the drill weekend. Following health department guidelines, that food had to be condemned.
The kitchen flood happened on Thursday, giving the Services team only one full work day to come up with a plan for Saturday.
“Our number one priority is to serve a quality, hot meal to the wing. Not doing that was not an option,” said Master Sgt. Wytina Cathey, noncommissioned officer in charge of food services for the squadron.
Cathey and others assessed the situation and determined that the griddle at the DFAC was still serviceable. A team put together a menu of hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages and other items that could be prepared with the limited equipment available. Food was purchased on Friday and a work schedule was put together to ensure that everything would be ready by 11 a.m. Saturday when the first troops started showing up for lunch.
“This is what we do,” said Master Sgt. Dawn Porter. “In a deployed environment, we often have to make plans to overcome whatever challenges you run into. Normally, that doesn’t happen when you are here at home station, but we took the same approach.”
While the leadership was putting together the plan, it fell to some of the junior personnel to step up to the grill or chopping board to make the plan work.
That’s how Airman 1st Class Dontrell Lattimore found himself chopping and slicing dozens of onions, to serve as a condiment to all those burgers and dogs.
“You just jump in and ask ‘What do you need me to do?’” he said. “Everyone works together until the job is done.”
For the lunch meal on Sunday, the Services team tried to add in a little variety. Chicken breasts were cooked on the grill and a vegetable stir-fry was whipped up in an industrial size broiler.
“We have a really strong team in the kitchen,” Horne said. “When you have people who know what they are doing, I just stood back and watched.”
Porter said the Services team served more than 300 lunches on both Saturday and Sunday. The DFAC food service only operates on drill weekends, meaning planning is always critical to having a successful weekend.
“We have a good team in place. Everyone knows his or her part, but everyone is also willing to jump in and do whatever needs to be done. That’s what made this weekend successful,” Porter said.