By Sgt. Nicholas T. Holmes
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. – The 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) dining facility, DFAC, implemented a grab-and-go serve system in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, March 18.
“Due to the virus, until told otherwise, we have taken away the dine-in option at our facility,” said Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Leaks, the DFAC manager, with 529th Regimental Support Company, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment. “It’s all about keeping our Soldiers and civilians safe during this time. Their safety is extremely important to us.”
The DFAC has implemented several changes in order to mitigate the spread of the virus
“[Patrons] no longer have the option of self service in order to prevent contamination,” said Leaks. “Everything is either prepackaged or served to them. We are making sure to follow the guidance put out to us from the regiment, garrison and higher headquarters.”
The cooks are continuing to practice cleaning and cooking requirements to standard as always, however, they are now required to change their gloves every ten minutes, Leaks said.
Currently, a Soldier is tasked to ensure that each patron uses hand sanitizer upon entering the DFAC, Leaks said.
Patrons are still afforded the same variety of menu options.
“Our menu will remain the same as of right now,” said Leaks. “[Patrons] are still being offered a wide range of meals.”
Plans are in place should the threat level escalate.
“If the threat level were to increase, the DFAC would have to move to issuing [Meals Ready to Eat], MREs; we hope it doesn’t come to that,” said Leaks.
MREs are a self-contained, individual field ration offered to service members for use in combat or other field conditions where organized food facilities are not available.
If Soldiers assigned to work in the DFAC show any symptoms related to the COVID-19, they are immediately sent to a medical screening.
“If anyone begins to show any symptoms there is a protocol in place that we follow,” said Sgt. Brittney McRoberts, team leader, with 529th RSC, 3d U.S. Inf. Reg. “They immediately report to sick call. If needed, they are then sent to Fort Belvoir for screening before they can return to duty.”
A positive COVID-19 test result would require the DFAC to shut down for a decontamination process, lasting a minimum of three days, said Leaks.
The changes have been met with a positive response from Soldiers.
“I like the changes, and I think the food actually tastes a little better,” laughs Pvt. Eduardo Ortiz, an infantryman with Honor Guard Company, 4th Battalion, 3d U.S. Inf. Reg. “The changes to keep us from gathering together to prevent the spread of the virus makes sense. The system seems to be working.”
“I haven’t heard any complaints,” said McRoberts. “Everyone has seemed very cooperative and understanding of the situation.”
As of now, aside from a heightened awareness, Old Guard Soldiers are carrying out missions as best they can, given the new parameters.
“The morale on [base] seems to be the same in my opinion,” said Ortiz. “Everyone is working together, trying to keep what we can as normal as possible and completing our missions.”
In closing, Leaks offers this:
“Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands,” he said. “Keep your distance and, if you don’t have to be at work, stay home.”