Marines cook halal meals for Afghans coming to America

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ryan Loudermilk, a food service specialist, hands out ice cream to Afghan children and families at Marine Corps Base Quantico on Monday.



Story by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins 

Operation Allies Welcome – Operation Allies Refuge  

After weeks of paperwork, planes, crowds, and chaos, several Afghans finally arrived at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, on Aug. 29, 2021, as part of Operation Allies Welcome.
While moving into their new temporary village, Marines greeted Afghans with a home-cooked meal, which service members made from scratch using Middle Eastern recipes.
In total, Marines worked around the clock to cook 800 meals for the jet-lagged travelers. The feast included chicken, fish, pita bread, curry, and vegetable sides to complete a 100% halal meal.
“I’m used to training and field operations that are standard in the Marine Corps, it feels good to finally do something bigger with my job,” said Sgt. Roy Betances, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Task Force Quantico Food Service Section and a native of Bronx, New York.
Marine Corps food service specialists normally cook for their fellow brothers and sisters in arms during training exercises and operations, using unitized group rations. These standard military meals sustain Marines through training, are easy to produce, and have a long shelf life. However, this menu does not meet many of the religious or dietary needs of most Afghans.
“We wanted to try to make it as close to the food they would get back home. As Marines, we know that sometimes that little slice of home can make a big difference in a day,” said Betances. “I was blown away and ecstatic when a woman who spoke English told us that it tasked like her mother’s cooking.”
Following the first day of cooking, government contractors assisted Marines in their culinary efforts and started preparing plates for Afghans. The food service specialists’ mission returned to feeding the Marines and Sailors who help run Upshur Village. On an average day, these military chefs make more than 600 meals.
“This is my first time working in the field after graduating my military occupation specialty school. It’s been a week full of new experiences,” said Pfc. Alexander Pulidogwin, a native of Sparta, Illinois. “I consider it a great honor to have my first mission to be out here working with Marines that have so much experience making such a big impact on so many lives.”
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