Story by Sgt. Jack Eden
197th Public Affairs Detachment
CAMP GUERNSEY, Wyoming—As the Army does indeed run on its stomach, and with two large operations in June—which meant thousands of hungry soldiers—the importance of food preparation services and packaged foods reached new heights, here.
This year, the dining facility contract is run by the same owners of Twisters, a local dining favorite. Manager Doug Lycan dubbed it “Twisters Two”. Since the change, according to kitchen manager Michael King, the dining facility has become more popular. Last year, fewer soldiers ate there, leaving high orders of food unconsumed.
There’s been a turnaround. “People are eating; they’re excited,” King said. “They are passing the word on to others, ‘Go see the D-Fac’”. Tech Sgt. Aaron Withey, a weapons and tactics instructor on Camp Guernsey, said, “It’s 100 percent better. There’s no comparison (to last year).”
Preplanning and logistics are key to the success of the dining facility. “It is all paid through contracts,” Lycan said. He can’t start cooking until the bill’s been paid. In that system, the groups of people eating there—the military, the Challenge Academy, the Wyoming State Highway Patrol—all need to place their orders in advance, so meals can be made and served on time. Lycan said food is ordered days ahead of time, and he can’t get same-day delivery when unexpected customers arrive.
To allow for this variety of soldier throughput his cooks have some leeway in planning menus. King said that cooks have some freedom to make menu choices, within Army regulations. They have even more control in creating soups and deserts.
Michael Ibarra, a cook at the facility, came to the military kitchen after working in restaurants. “I’m used to fine dining and restaurants,” he said. Though this is a different environment, with different needs and expectations, “the cooking is still fun.” Here, Ibarra found that the cooking involves making a large quantity of one product, versus the restaurant model of making a small quantity of a lot of different things. “Here, it’s about calorie counts and portion size,” Ibarra said.
Although soldiers in the field may not be able to come in from the field to use the dining facility, units are able to pick up food containers twice a day at 0600 and 1700. The food inside is insulated to keep it warm or cold.
It was one of the ways that troops got fed on Camp Guernsey. Units that brought their own cooks had the option of ordering Class A rations, the ingredients to make their own meals entirely from scratch. Then there are operational meals such as the Meals, Ready to Eat (MRE). Another operational meal served was the Unitized Group Ration (UGR).
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Raymond VanNatter, of the Camp Guernsey Logistics office, described the UGR as a combination of canned and frozen fruits, milk, bread, salads, and the Cafe-to-Go instant coffee for groups.
On the edge of the camp’s parade field, soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 117th Field Artillery Regiment, with the Alabama National Guard flocked to a Containerized Kitchen (CK), where their cooks prepared food for them. On a table were stacked boxes of cereal, fruit, and serving-tray sized cans of UGR breakfast foods.
According to Spc. Isaiah Hooter, a cook with the 117th, supplies were ordered long before the soldiers arrived, and Wyoming delivered the food on time and as expected. “It’s common to get supplies delivered to you in a CONEX,” Hooter said. An ice CONEX kept perishable food and a non-temperature controlled CONEX stored the “heat-and-serve” UGR meals.
Sgt. Terry Brown of the 117th likes the CKs compared with the older military kitchen trailers because they have more equipment inside. When comparing the CK and the older, mobile kitchen trailer, or MKT, Brown says, “They have refrigerators and freezers, the MKT doesn’t”. Inside the CK behind Brown, cooks set up a serving line of hot breakfast UGRs in warmers.
Some Wyoming units still have their own cooks. These cooks prepare meals in CK trailers and in the recently updated kitchens within the local armories. Sometimes, the cooks will prepare food for their own units, or they might be sent to other units to meet special meal needs, including helping with special holiday meals. These are just some of the ways Wyoming feeds the thousands of soldiers who work and train in our state.
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