FORT HOOD, TX, UNITED STATES
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Michael Cox
The British Army calls them chefs and the U.S. Army calls them cooks. Same job, different name. They are responsible for fueling soldier’s stomachs in the field. Soldiers from the 553rd Quartermaster Field Feeding Company had a chance to see how their British counterparts from the 3rd U.K. Division operate in the field to compare skill sets and build relationships.
“This is a training opportunity for our Food Service team to expand on their standardized field feeding operations, exchange experiences and learn how other joint forces operate their field feeding site,” said Msg. Donna Alston, Class 1 NCOIC 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command Support Operations. “This is also a way to boost Soldier’s morale while in a field environment.”
Though chefs and cooks more or less do the same thing, there are some significant differences when it comes to how each feed their forces.
Pvt. Michael Wiseman, a Culinary Specialist in the 553rd QM FFC said, “One of the main differences is we use a Mobile Kitchen Trailer that you pop open and four Soldiers operate out of, the UK has around 10 Soldiers operating in about six tents. So their set up is a lot more elaborate.”
Spc. Daquanda Marbury, a Culinary Specialist in the 553rd QM FFC, explains what she found different.
“When we’re out in the field everything we cook is already precooked and packaged and you just add water to it and it’s ready, but here everything is fresh and you can get more creative with the meals,” Marbury said.
That wasn’t the only thing that Marbury noticed.
“When we finished prepping the lunch I asked what’s for dinner and they told me we just finished prepping for dinner too. The time went by so fast I didn’t realized we had also prepped dinner. Everyone is so engaged here,” Marbury said.
The British Army serves four meals daily, breakfast, lunch, dinner and a midnight chow, so preparing multiple meals at once is a must to ensure that all meals are ready to be served at their proper times.
“We mostly prepare breakfast and dinner and Soldiers have an MRE for lunch in the field,” said Spc. Taira Blunt, a culinary specialist in Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion III Corps. “I always think I work hard, but these guys do four meals a day from scratch.”
Cpl. Iain Tress, Chef in the 3rd U.K. Division, who worked with American Soldiers before also noticed differences.
“I have seen Americans prepared food once when I was in Germany and it’s very different than how we do it,” Tress said. “It’s a lot more clinical and clean, but I think what we do, starting from scratch and producing the entire meal makes better chefs.“
Soldiers from the 3rd U.K. Division have been at Fort Hood since February to participate in Warfighter Exercise 19-4. The British chefs have been serving food to around 500 Soldiers daily since they arrived. Each chef works nearly 14 hours a day preparing meals.
Having Soldiers from the U.S. visit and work side by side with their British counterparts isn’t just about learning how each force operates in the kitchen, more importantly it’s about interoperability and the ability to work together as a team when needed.
“This is very important for us as coalition forces to support and train each other,” said Staff Sgt. Basanta Gurung, a chef in the 3rd U.K. Division. “You never know what can happen. I have worked with Americans in Afghanistan and it is important for the British to learn how Americans conduct business and for the Americans to learn how the British conduct business so we can move forward and work together.”
The British chefs seemed very impressed with the competency and capabilities of the Soldiers in the 553rd QM FFC.
“It was an absolute pleasure having the American Soldiers working with us,” Gurung said. “They have been fantastic, working hard and learning how we do business.”
“They all worked hard,” said Lance Cpl. Kieren Woodhead, a chef in the 3rd U.K. Division.” This is important because you can always learn something new and if we don’t teach each other you’re never going to learn.”
Working with Soldiers from an ally nation is an opportunity that not every Soldier gets to experience, but those that do leave with a lasting impression.
“This experience is always going to stick with me,” Wiseman said. “It’s really cool meeting Soldiers from other countries like the UK to see how they run their operations and the way they do things. I met a lot of new people today and it was really interesting to hear their stories.“
“This was a very valuable experience for us, Marbury said. “ What I’m leaving with is that it doesn’t matter what you’re cooking as long as you’re trying your best people appreciate what you’re doing.”