HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, NM, UNITED STATES
Story by Airman 1st Class Quion Lowe
HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, NM. — The permanent party dining facility is a staple in all Air Force bases. These facilities are available to Airmen to provide nutrition that is essential to their readiness.
In March of 2020, when the world seemingly stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Air Force mission continued, and the Shifting Sands dining facility here made necessary adjustments to ensure operations would safely continue.
“We already had a very high standard for sanitation but it’s even higher now,” said Tech. Sgt. Hector Vasquez, 49th Force Support Squadron Shifting Sands dining facility manager. “We take pride in the fact that our customers come in here and know that their safety and health is our number one priority.”
The DFAC added several regulations to their operations to help stop the spread of COVID-19. All food is now available to-go, there are no reusable dishes for customers, and face coverings are required upon entry, to name a few.
At one point, the DFAC temporarily moved to a different location and looked to other FSS Airmen for assistance while some staff members were quarantined as a precautionary measure.
“I worked in the DFAC when it was moved to Club Holloman for a couple weeks in April,” said Airman 1st Class Maria Shaira Katrina Espine, 49th FSS Domenici Fitness Center fitness specialist. “It was a very quick transition, but it was really rewarding to be depended on like that and help out. We were really ‘all hands on deck’ and worked hard but I also had fun.”
Although the dining facility was never fully closed, personnel made improvisations throughout the pandemic.
“Initially, ensuring we had enough to-go containers was definitely a challenge,” said Vasquez. “But our suppliers have been doing an amazing job of keeping up with us and there are very few limitations to what we can do. I’m proud to say that in my 16 years in the military this is one of the cleanest dining facilities I have been to and our team as a whole, has done an outstanding job of rising to the challenge of meeting a new, even higher standard.”
Despite the complications the COVID-19 pandemic caused for the base dining facility, the Airmen continued without hesitation, to do their part in the Air Force mission.
“Just like the medical group and security forces, our Airmen didn’t stop during the pandemic, we kept doing our duties to the best of our abilities,” said Vasquez. “So many Airmen depend on us to provide meals so they can do their jobs effectively and without complaining, our food service team and other FSS staff rose to the occasion to make sure our operations continued.”