FORT HOOD, TX, UNITED STATES
Story by Sgt. Juan F. Jimenez, Sgt. Joseph Mcdonald and Capt. Brian Meese
With the sun high above their heads and the heat reaching over 120 degrees, U.S. Army Reserve cooks assigned to the 980th Forward Support Company, spend long hours preparing meals for over 1,300 Soldiers. Often sleeping few hours at a time, these Soldiers work beyond duty hours, day after day, to accomplish their vital mission.
While all can appreciate the benefit, many Soldiers do not realize the work it takes to get a hot meal while in field conditions. Inside the hot field kitchen there’s always a group of hard-working Soldiers, keeping their fellow Soldiers from having to eat a Meal-Ready-to Eat (MRE) three times a day.
For one Army Reserve Soldier, Spc. Sammie Reyes, assigned to the 980th FSC, cooking is never a problem. “I love cooking,” said Reyes, a Food Service Specialist. “Cooking is my passion and I enjoy being out here and cooking for the Soldiers,” he said.
Reyes is conducting annual training on Ft. Hood, Texas, in support of River Assault 19, which is a key U.S. Army Reserve training exercise that is intended for engineers and enablers to conduct specific training to increase readiness, enhance partnership and gain interoperability with multi-component and multi-service elements.
This is Reyes’ second annual training with the Army Reserve and he has been actively seeking out ways to improve as a Soldier, a cook and a leader.
“This annual training, I am first cook and I am in charge of my own MKT [Mobile Kitchen Trailer] and about five Soldiers,” said Reyes.
The MKT is a cooking system capable of being quickly disassembled, transported and deployed in the field in order to serve food anywhere. The MKT gives Reyes and his Soldiers the ability to train with the same systems they will have while deployed and increase their overall readiness, while increasing the supported unit’s lethality.
“In an MKT, Soldiers can do a variety of jobs to help develop them as well-rounded Army cooks, leaders and Soldiers” said Sgt, Zackary Shearer, noncommissioned officer in charge. “Reyes has surely stepped up to the challenge and has shown initiative by taking charge and responsibility as a young specialist,” said Shearer.
In addition to the demanding schedule, the heat and the lack of sleep, food service specialists must also follow a demanding set of safety regulations and sanitization standards that must be kept while cooking in the field.
“It’s not just all about cooking, now,” said Reyes. “We’re cooking for 1,300 people, twice a day, so you need patience. We need to work as a team and motivate each other to keep going,” said Reyes. “I don’t think people understand what we have to go through so they can get some hot chow; they would be surprised how much work it takes.”
Shearer said with a smile on his face, “Some Soldiers can’t even imagine the time and hard work their cooks do here. It’s over 120 degrees inside the MKT, and these guys are getting the job done.”
“I love food, I love to cook the food and I love to eat food,” said Reyes. “Our job is very important and I know nobody wants to eat MRE’s all day.”