BREMERTON, WA, UNITED STATES
Story by Douglas Stutz
Situated in the Texas Hill Country, Camp Bullis is a long way from showing up on any nautical chart.
For U.S. Navy Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Israel Tellezalego and Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Alvin Bueno, they might have felt – initially – like fish out of water at the U.S. Army training site.
Until they started cookin’ with their cooking.
Tellezalego and Bueno, assigned to Navy Medicine Readiness Training Command Bremerton Terrace Dining facility, were the initial culinary specialists to recently take part in the U.S. Army Joint Field Nutrition Course which provides hand-on nutritional operational training within a simulated Army field hospital in a deployment setting.
“We learned how to carry out our culinary specialist duties in a tactical environment. We learned how to help others in a disaster situation by caring for victims by setting up a field kitchen, which we got down to be able to have ready to use in 10 minutes in a field operation. We also learned how to prepare nutritional meals for wounded and displaced people,” said Tellezalego.
The 10-day course is designed to teach military personnel, which in the past has been relegated to Navy Medical Service Corps officers with specialty training in dietetics, to assess the nutritional status of various populations and become familiar with several types of non-governmental organizations food distribution programs.
“Every year the Army allots the Navy four slots for this valuable training. We thought it would be really important for our CSs, not just Navy nutritionists, to have the experience and gain the knowledge,” stated Lt. Lorna Brown, registered dietitian and Nutrition Management department head. “We got great feedback on CS2 Tellezalego and CS3 Bueno effort throughout the course.”
The two took part in a host of active training scenarios, such as land navigation; convoy operations; litter obstacle course training; hands-on instructions in setting-up a containerized kitchen and feeding patients during field operations; helping with physical exams on children; interviewing victims/patients and a cook-off competition.
It was the first foray for both away from their comfort and culinary zone into an operational environment decidedly different from their norm. Not only were they in a landlocked setting, it was sunny and hot.
“The Army definitely has their own system in the field, which is different than the one we’re used to on a ship,” noted Tellezalego, from Kernersville, North Carolina, who served on the guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG59).
“We were doing hydration tests every day. Sometimes twice a day to make sure we were drinking enough fluid and not getting dehydrated,” added Bueno, from Honolulu, Hawai’i, previously stationed on the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69).
Tellezalego cited that amongst the lesson learned were how to assist victims from a calamity and/or disaster; how to prepare nutritious meals using only available resources; field survival; combat first aid training; and the aforementioned hydration testing.
“It was a humbling experience. Seeing how the other service branches went about their duty made us more connected and gave us a lot more knowledge in being able to take care of patients with special dietary needs,” Tellezalego said.
Bueno affirmed that the training experience in a primary Army-centric environment can certainly benefit a Sailors back in his ‘haze-gray underway’ surrounding.
“If deployed on a Navy platform, like a hospital ship, I would know how to feed patients who are malnourished, gather information from the patients about their health and be able to directly support humanitarian rescue while deployed to third world countries” said Bueno.
Perhaps one of the more crucial and important lessons both learned was simply how to make do with what was obtainable in the field. Logistical support is not a guarantee during times of a natural disaster. Supply lines can get cut during any conflict. Material management during a mass casualty situation can become muddled. Casualties, as well as service members, will need sustenance.
Towards that end, Tellezalego and Bueno took part in the cook-off portion of the course, where they were given an hour to prepare and one hour to cook a meal featuring beef, relying on ingredients they were directed to use at the start of their 60 minute window.
“We had to include ginger and avocado,” related Tellezalego.
Once returned to their parent command in the Pacific Northwest, the other culinary specialists expressed varied degrees of curiosity over their training experience. Yet each expressed the same response to Tellezalego.
“They all said that wanted to be the next to be able to attend the course and increase their knowledge to be able to perform nutritional needs in any type of operational field,” Tellezalego said.
Note: USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) just returned from participating in Pacific Partnership 2022, the 17th iteration of the largest annual multi-national humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific, with host nations Vietnam, Palau, the Philippines and Solomon Islands. USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) is currently deployed to U.S. 4th Fleet in support of Continuing Promise 2022, a humanitarian assistance and goodwill mission conducting direct medical care, expeditionary veterinary care, and subject matter expert exchanges with five partner nations in the Caribbean, Central and South America.
According to the Joint Base San Antonio website, Camp Bullis provides base operation support and training support to Joint Base San Antonio mission partners in order to sustain operational and institutional training requirements.