RAF MILDENHALL, SFK, UNITED KINGDOM
Story by Karen Abeyasekere
Now that restrictions from the pandemic have been lifted, staff at the Gateway Dining Facility are going all out to ensure customers have a great dining experience.
During the height of COVID-19, the DFAC had to limit its services and facilities for the health and safety of customers and staff. Additionally, during Operation Allies Welcome, many Airmen working there were deployed to Germany in order to provide food to the Afghan refugees, which caused manning shortages and limited food services available.
Now the DFAC is back to full capacity, and bringing even more options and specials to Team Mildenhall.
“Everything was covered in plastic wrap when COVID first hit; customers were not allowed to touch anything themselves, and we had a server on every single station to serve the food,” said Staff Sgt. Lexis Ramos, 100th Force Support Squadron Gateway Dining Facility storeroom NCO in charge. “The whole ‘grab and go’ option wasn’t there and it was like an assembly line where you would point to what you wanted and it was then handed over; mask-wearing was also strictly adhered to as well.”
The storeroom NCOIC added that patrons are now able to help themselves to their own choice of salad rather than having to get a pre-boxed salad, so they can customize it as they please. Eat-in is also an option again, as well as still having the option of having a meal to-go. Customers can also once again now get two entrees instead of just one.
“Now it’s back to ‘the new normal’ and we have full functions, operations and services available to the customer,” explained Ramos. “We have hand sanitizer stations, and more options and freedom for the customers – they have the ability to again help themselves to salad and other food items. A lot of people like that aspect of being independent of choosing and grabbing their food. It also means DFAC staff are able to give our attention and time to other jobs in the kitchen, as we don’t have to ‘babysit’ all the food stations.”
Staff at the DFAC are made up of military Airmen and civilians, who ensure meals are readily available to suit all shifts.
One of the new additions at the DFAC is a waffle bar during brunch every weekend and holiday, which includes various toppings, fruit, cream, sprinkles and syrups. Other specials include the baked potato bar and Mongolian barbeque.
The 100th FSS Airmen and civilians take pride in their job and enjoy interacting with their customers.
“What I like most here is when I’m working the serving line, whether it’s the grill, sandwich bar or snack bar, I like to talk to Airmen from other squadrons and different career fields,” said Airman 1st Class Alex Hernandez, 100th FSS Gateway Dining Facility food service apprentice. “I enjoy meeting new people and it helps me build relationships at RAF Mildenhall. What makes me most proud in my job is that I’m here to support others by providing and serving them their food. I’ve only been here one month, and the best dish I’ve made so far is lasagna – some Airmen enjoyed it so much they came back for more and that made me very happy!
“We want our customers to know we hear them; we’re actively trying to make the dining facility a better experience for them,” remarked Ramos. “The food councils really do help to get the message across and we encourage everyone to attend food council meetings, because we can’t solve issues or make certain changes if things aren’t brought to our attention.
The DFAC is vital to the RAF Mildenhall mission because the 100th FSS supports the entire base populace to ensure they are mission-ready at all times by providing and serving food. Ramos said that at the end of the day, the mission is to get the planes in the sky, and the DFAC supports all Airmen whether they’re security forces, maintenance or any other career field.