Story by Winifred Brown
US Army Garrison – Japan
CAMP ZAMA, Japan (April 24, 2020) – Chris Smith, manager of the Camp Zama DFAC, has 16 years of experience with Army food service, and although the recent switch to takeout-only was unprecedented for him, he and his staff have risen to the occasion.
“It’s something new,” said Smith, who spent 12 years on active duty and has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. “So like anything new, being a prior Soldier, you always have to adapt to change. So for me, it’s like OK, ‘Hey, it’s just another curveball. Let’s make the mission happen and get it done.’”
The facility made the change in late March in response to COVID-19 social distancing concerns, Smith said, and because the food is the same and there was already a takeout option, most of the changes involved installing social distancing signs on the floor and making everything to go.
“It’s not a big thing,” Smith said. “I thank my staff. They’ve adjusted very well to it.”
The change has applied to breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the facility’s menu has stayed the same, with Mexican each Monday, Italian each Tuesday, soul food each Wednesday; Asian food each Thursday; and meals featuring a variety of steaks, chicken and fish the other days of the week.
Soldiers at the facility for lunch April 23 said they appreciate the efforts of the DFAC personnel, and Sgt. Robert Gonzales, assigned to I Corps Forward, said he thinks the line is actually more efficient now that people come in and go out right away.
“They’re still providing for us so we can all eat,” Gonzales said. “Keep up the good work.”
Pfc. Kimyatta Small, assigned to the 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, said she lives in the barracks and visits the DFAC frequently, and she appreciates that having takeout-only is safer while the world contends with COVID-19.
“They have handled it well,” Small said, agreeing that the line is faster.
Sgt. Antonio Plasencia, assigned to U.S. Army Pacific Support Unit Forward, said he is glad staff members have pre-cut foil coverings for the to-go plates and have made everything within arm’s reach.
“They know what they’re doing,” Plasencia said.
In the past, Plasencia said he ended up getting takeout anyway because he didn’t have time to eat at the facility, so the change hasn’t been a big deal to him.
Pvt. Joseph Guerra, assigned to I Corps Forward, said he visits the DFAC every day and the staff have maintained the usual quality of the food.
“It’s not really much of a change,” Guerra said. “Instead of enjoying the food here, I just enjoy it in my room now.”
Spc. Jordan Tubbs, a preventive medicine specialist running the cash register, said DFAC visitors have been mindful of observing COVID-19 safety rules.
“People are definitely keeping their distance and keeping safe,” Tubbs said. “Everyone coming in is wearing masks.”
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