AHMED AL JABER AIR BASE, KUWAIT
Story by Senior Airman Isaiah Soliz
The 407th Expeditionary Support Squadron, with support from multiple base agencies, launched the Sandstorm Field Kitchen April 15, 2020 with the goal of maximizing physical distancing.
The 386th Air Expeditionary Wing’s proactive response to COVID-19 includes several preventative measures such as the suspension of non-essential gatherings, cancellation of Force Support events, changes within dining facilities and the launch of a new dining facility to help support those changes.
“This dining facility was stood up to promote health protection guidelines and because of the influx of people we are getting,” said Tech. Sgt. Leslie Torres, 407th ESPTS dining facility manager. “This facility helps out and allows some of the base population to come here instead of all going to the main dining facility.”
When dining at the Sandstorm Field Kitchen, visitors must first wash their hands in the hand washing station, then they must ensure to don their mask before entering. The seats inside have all been labeled so people know where to sit in order to adhere to physical distancing rules.
The primary dining facility on the installation is managed via a contract service, whereas the new Sandstorm Field Kitchen is managed by 407th ESPTS Airmen and volunteers.
“Because the field kitchen is run by us, we are able to cater a little more to what the customers want,” Torres said. “This facility is different because most are run by other country nationals that are working via a contract. It’s a bit more work but I like it better, working this ourselves allows us to have partner nation or Marine volunteers. We then provide our volunteers with food handling training.”
Torres went on to speak of her dynamic, multi-service team.
“They are very positive, I have not had any issues with my group,” Torres said. “There are five of us Air Force and there are nine from the Marines. Most of my team does not have any experience in the kitchen but everybody has been hands on, so it’s been a great team for me.”
The Sandstorm Field Kitchen prepares breakfast, lunch and dinner for the base populace.
”I make sure all the meals are ready prior to meal time, I come from an Army background so working in this tent is not anything new to me,” said Senior Airman Hisela Mendez, 407th ESPTS dining facility shift leader. “The equipment here is much better than what I was used to in the Army.”
During the planning and building stage, the field kitchen required input from several base agencies to include civil engineering, fire, safety and public health.
“The field kitchen helps in slowing the spread of COVID-19 by allowing customers more facilities that offer food so not everyone is eating in one location,” said Tech. Sgt. Tasha Bates 407th ESPTS Sustainment section chief. “This allows members to be able to spread out around base to eat instead of eating at one facility.”
The 386th AEW is committed to taking care of its Airmen and partner nation service members by adhering to COVID-19 Health Protection guidelines while ensuring the mission of delivering decisive combat power and unparalleled theater support continues unimpeded.