SAN ANTONIO, TX, UNITED STATES
Story by Capt. Jose Caballero
CAMP BULLIS, Texas- It is a hot August day in Texas, and it is even hotter inside of a U.S. Army Reserve mobile kitchen trailer. The stove burners are on and there are food service evaluators from the U.S. Army Reserve Command evaluating Soldiers from the 370th Transportation Company “Outlaws,” headquartered in Brownsville, Texas, for the 51st Phillip A. Connelly Award Program, a food service competition.
The Phillip A. Connelly Award Program was established in 1968 to recognize excellence in Army Food Service. The program is co-sponsored by the National Restaurant Association and the Department of the Army. The competition has various categories, including the category 370th TC is competing in, field kitchen field-feeding operations. Only four teams will advance to the next level of competition.
The evaluators scrutinize every single part of the field feeding operations. Some of the items they grade include: effective supervision, effective use of manpower, sanitation, cost consciousness, headcount procedures, safety, serving, field kitchen site layout, food preparation, food quality, food requisition, food receipt, and food storage procedures.
Winners of the competition will receive an invitation NRA annual conference and awards ceremony. They will be presented with Certificates of Achievement and trophies. Two Soldiers, one junior NCO and one Junior Soldier, will also receive a scholarship to the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, California.
“The Phillip A. Connelly Award Program promotes professionalism within our food service community, allow our Soldiers to perform at the highest level possible, while being evaluated”, said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Pamela Null, USARC Senior Food Advisor. “It leads our food service personnel to become more proficient in their field, resulting in better food service for the Army.“
The competition is a good training opportunity. The units have to plan, prepare, mobilize and set up a complete field kitchen site, just like they would in remote areas where Soldiers need proper nutrition. In preparation, Soldiers forming the food service and field sanitation teams learn and execute the proper way to perform their responsibilities.
“I have acquired a lot of experience on the MKT, how to set it up, break it down, how to clean it”, said Pfc. Joe-Izaak Castañon, a Culinary Specialist with the 370th TC. “I feel that learning how to operate in a field environment has made me a better Soldier and better prepared for future missions.”
The competition started early in the morning with an operations brief, and immediately after the Soldiers moved to their workstations to start sanitizing, conducting inspections and preparing the meal.
“We have been preparing for this event and we are very confident that we can win”, said Castañon. “We have been preparing these last eight days and we cook every battle assembly weekend. The food will never be the problem, I promise that.”
The Soldiers worked diligently and focused on the task at hand. They filled pots and pans, whisking, mixing, cutting, and chopping ingredients as the evaluators observed. The evaluators hovered over the team members asking questions, as they simultaneously received directions from their supervisors to make sure they were preparing the food correctly. Determination was visible in the team’s actions; they know that their job is important.
“Soldiers can’t march or fight without calories and proper nutrition” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Charles Farran, the 4th Expeditionary Sustainment Command Food Advisor, “We support the war-fighter, this is our way of maintaining our lethality.”
It was a long morning and around noon Soldiers started to line up for chow. They walked through the MKT with their trays in hand and were greeted by the food service team. The menu consisted of: teriyaki chicken, chicken egg drop soup, steamed brown wild rice, broccoli, whole wheat bread, fresh fruit, spring salad and dessert. There were smiles and compliments to the team that prepared their meal. There were smiles and a sense of satisfaction on team members faces as they served the meal they had prepared.
The USARC food service evaluators will continue to evaluate other teams throughout the force and release their results in the upcoming months. Even if they don’t win the competition, the benefits of the competition are already visible around the field kitchen site. These are highly trained culinary specialists that boost morale, provide proper nutrition and add to the lethality of the war-fighters.
The 370th Transportation Company is a part of the 211th Regional Support Group and the 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary). The command is made up of Soldiers, civilians and their families in units headquartered throughout Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. As part of America’s Army Reserve, these units are trained, combat–ready and equipped to provide military and logistical support in any corner of the globe.