Made From Scratch: The 57th Philip A. Connelly Competition Heats Up in Nevada

Photo By Sgt. Jean-Baptiste Kanangwe | The 1003rd QM Field Feeding Detachment participated in the 57th Annual Philip A. Connelly competition in the Reserve Field Category on March 9th at Camp Cobra, Nellis Air Force Base. The Philip A. Connelly Program embodies food service excellence carried out by culinary specialists with the aim of promoting and enhancing Army food service. The 1003rd QM Field Feeding Detachment presented a delectable and varied menu consisting of Buffalo Chicken over Rice, Green Beans with Potatoes and Bacon, Pulled Pork Slider with Pineapple Slaw, Fruit Salad, Gourmet Salad, Vegetable Soup, and Red Velvet Cake with Oreos.

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NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, NV, UNITED STATES

03.09.2024

Story by Capt. William Stroud 

311th Expeditionary Sustainment Command    

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NELLIS AIRFORCE BASE, Nevada – From March 8-9, 2024, 1003rd Quartermaster Detachment (Field Feeding) competed in U.S Army Reserve Command (USARC) level of the 57th Philip A. Connelly Award Competition.

Born in June of 1907 in Framingham, Massachusetts, Philip A. Connelly went on to become a leader in his chosen profession – food service management. His service and positive influence on food service programs, facilitated goal alignment in education training, career development, and job opportunities. Today’s program personifies food service excellence driven by quality dining experiences in garrison and field environments. The Army established the Philip A. Connelly Competition in 1968 to recognize excellence in food service to honor his legacy,

The competition aims to foster ongoing innovation in sustainment initiatives, enhancing professionalism in food service and ensuring the delivery of high-quality meals. It seeks to recognize excellence in food preparation and service, incentivize competitive programs within the Army Sustainment Command (ASC) and Army Services Component Command (ASCC), and highlight exemplary management practices. Additionally, this competition promotes positive media coverage, enhances readiness and wartime capabilities, and reinforces adherence to nutritional meal guidelines.

The Philip A. Connelly Competition focuses on two primary areas: garrison and field feeding. The competition at the base’s premier training site, Camp Cobra, centered on the field feeding category. Throughout the two-day competition, evaluators from USARC graded the food service team on multiple evaluation areas. These areas include administration, supervision, headcount operations, request and receipt and storage of rations, field sanitation, command support, plate appearance, serving execution, kitchen site selection and layout, maintenance of equipment, and food preparation and quality.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 David C. Luttrell, the 311th Expeditionary Sustainment Command (ESC) senior food program manager, emphasized the competition’s importance, stating, “This competition has a rich history. It starts at lower echelons when teams are selected based on how good their food programs are.” Luttrell selected this year’s team based their culinary skills and their ability to achieve results. “I evaluate my command’s best food programs and then select them for ESC, Theater Sustainment Command (TSC), and U.S. Army Reserve Command (USARC) level reviews.”

This year’s food service team comes from the 1003rd Quartermaster Detachment. They are a vital part of the 314th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion (CSSB) and supports up to 700 personnel. The team includes Staff Sgt. Susan K. Palmer, Sgt. Fernando Villasenoralvardo, Sgt. Christopher Harris, Spc. Jarron Smith, Spc. Agustina Gonzalez, and Spc. Jonathan Foss, and a 16-person support staff.

The 311th Expeditionary Sustainment Command (ESC) Commanding General, Brig. Gen. Earl (Chip) Sparks, attended the competition and said, “The 1003rd is competing for the best feeding unit. Staff Sgt. Palmer and her team have been preparing for weeks to be out here. The competition started yesterday with the setting up the mobile kitchen trailer.” Sparks eagerly awaited the meal being prepared. “Looking forward to chow this afternoon. The final test of how good they are is when we get to eat their food. Morale is high and they are hitting it out of the park. It is a great day to be in the Army.”

The 1003rd reached Camp Cobra days before the competition, bringing their Mobile Kitchen Trailer (MKT) and establishing a field site. On the morning of March 9, USARC evaluators arrived for grading. The cooks lined up for the “cooks mount,” where soldiers receive an inspection for overall cleanliness. Lastly, the field sanitation team inspected the water for contaminants before preparing the meal.

At each level of the competition, teams receive unitized group rations (UGR) to prepare their menus. The cooks apply their culinary expertise to customize the menu, crafting nutritious and flavorful meals. The 1003rd’s menu included: buffalo chicken over rice, pulled pork sliders with pineapple and slaw, green beans with potatoes and bacon, fruit salad, gourmet salad, vegetable soup, red velvet cake with Oreos, and infused water.

Most people believe the Connelly Competition is purely cooking-based, but according to culinary specialist, Spc. Agustina Gonzalez, there is more going on behind the scenes. “The focus is always on the cooks and the food, but you have to remember that we are also graded on maintenance, field sanitation, food safety, and protection.” Additionally, the team receives grading on administrative tasks and yearly training requirements.

Time is crucial as the team must commence lunch service punctually. Cooking for large groups poses challenges, but progressive cooking helps manage risk and control the service pace. Regular time reminders ensure adherence to the schedule, facilitating timely food delivery. This method allows for the preparation of up to 15 servings every 10 minutes, ensuring the meal remains fresh and hot despite the demanding pace.

Despite cooking difficulties in a field environment, the 1003rd completed their mission and served 75 hungry soldiers that afternoon.

“This was my first time competing in the Connelly and only my second time cooking in the field since school and I was very nervous,” said Gonzalez. “We just finished and I’m still thinking we had more to give, but we did great.” As the dust settled and the kitchen flames cooled, the team took to the dining tents to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

While the cooks shared the meal, Staff Sgt. Susan K. Palmer applauded her soldiers’ efforts. “My team came together and I’m proud of their efforts and the meal we produced.” Palmer acknowledged the other members of her team that made the cooks’ performance possible. “No question. Without the other members of my team, the cooks would be frozen. We were in sync all day entire day, and it showed with our timely service and the quality meal.”

The 1003rd will wait until the fall for their results and potential advancement to the Department of the Army (DA) level in the competition.

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