FORT IRWIN, CALIF — Food service during a training rotation or mission can have a significant impact on morale. One field feeding team, assigned to Regimental Support Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR), strives to build on the high standard of excellence set by the Philip A. Connelly Award Program and the Philip A. Connelly Field Kitchen Competition.
Named after the late Philip A. Connelly, former president of the International Food Service Executives Association (IFSEA), the program was established to recognize excellence in Army food service. Although the U.S. Army changed to the National Restaurant Association’s Standards from the IFSEA’s in 2014, the competition and professionalism associated with the Connelly competition have set conditions to improve food service in the military.
This year the 11th ACR is competing in the Active Army Field Kitchen category, which focuses on field kitchen operations. The other three categories are Military Dining Facilities, Army National Guard Field Kitchen, and U.S. Army Reserve Field Kitchen.
1st Lt. Logan Abraham, field feeding platoon leader, Regimental Support Squadron, describes the preparation for the competition as leader development through individual and collective train-up.
“Our team has lots of repetition and rotational experience in what they do,” said Abraham. “Each of our culinary specialists [has] dedicated over 200 hours to build their expertise and cohesion as a team by executing rehearsals and standards-based training.”
A total of six Regimental Support Squadron Soldiers performed as a team in this year’s Philip A. Connelly Field Kitchen Competition to represent the National Training Center: Sgt. Donald Previty, from Buffalo, New York; Sgt. Carolina Sanchez, from Orange County, California; Spc. Michael Groves, from New Smyrna Beach, Florida; Spc. Cheeto Rafanan, from Dededo, Guam; Spc. Courtney Roseborough, from Port La Cruz, Trinidad and Tobago; and Spc. Teyona Jones, from Hampton, South Carolina.
The in-person evaluation of the 11th ACR field feeding team took place over a span of 48 hours. It started on July 19th, and the team was evaluated on different criteria to include pre-deployment activities, movement into the field, site selection and set-up, food service administration, food preparation and quality, and field food safety.
Specialist Tanya Jones, culinary food specialist, says it is important that she participated in the Connelly competition. “It gets me more experience with my job and the knowledge I need to know for when I am a non-commissioned officer,” said Jones. “[Our] teamwork is everything, and without motivation, there is no way the mission will be accomplished.”
The 11th ACR field feeding team is the first to be evaluated out of six other units in the Active Army Field Kitchen category across Forces Command (FORSCOM) for the opportunity to compete at the Department of the Army level. Evaluators are sent from the Army Quartermaster School’s Joint Culinary Center of Excellence (JCCoE) to evaluate performance and provide real-time feedback.
Sgt. 1st Class Kristoffer Rasmussen, National Training Center Senior Command Food Advisor, feels that training for an evaluation at this level helps incentivize the Soldiers.
“It’s a great way to get our culinary specialists more proficient in their duties, oftentimes they will start to fall into bad habits, and training for an evaluation like this forces them to get back to the proper ways of doing things and they can take that training to their peers later and raise the whole operation to a new level of greatness,” said Rasmussen. “It also gives the Soldiers more incentive to be the best they can be because winning the Connelly is a very prestigious title and everyone across the Army will know them if they win.”
“I’m very proud of our team, they have worked extremely hard, and I think they have a good chance of winning the competition this year,” said 1st Lt. Abraham.
11th ACR and the National Training Center will receive the final results in early October to determine if they will advance to the Department of the Army level.
“Every culinary specialist should be afforded the right to showcase their skills and training,” said Sgt. Donald Previty, non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the field feeding team. Our military occupational specialty is non-stop, physically and mentally. There is always something to learn, and everyone needs to eat.”