Long hours, hard work to ensure Soldiers get hot food

Thursday, June 16, 2016

FORT A.P. HILL, Virginia. – Ask any Soldier whether they would rather have a hot meal or a pre-packaged meal and the answer will almost always be unanimously in favor of the hot meal.

With this in mind, commands at training exercises do their best to provide a fresh, hot meal to every Soldier at least twice per day. This daunting task comes with long hours, hard work, sacrifice, and typically not a lot of shown appreciation from the people you feed.

Now you may be wondering who would be willing to put themselves through all of this hard work preparing food. Especially when there are few rewards and there are so many other job options available. That’s where the Reserve Soldiers of the 439th Quartermaster Company of Middletown, Connecticut, step in.

“Either you love this job or it will consume you,” said Staff Sgt. Eugene Blais, food service management non-commissioned officer in charge for the 2016 Quartermaster Liquid Logistics Exercise (QLLEX).

Blais is the leader of the team of cooks who provide two hot meals, breakfast and dinner, to more than 500 Soldiers every day during QLLEX. Operations are split between their main area of operations at Camp Archer and a dining facility at Camp Wilcox.

“Our number one goal here is to feed the troops,” said Blais. “It’s a huge morale boost to have two hot meals per day, and we make sure every Soldier coming through our lines gets fed.”

I’ve seen them deal with extreme heat, little rest, mechanical issues, strict timelines and they have persevered tremendously, said Sgt. 1st Class Nathan J. Moore, acting first sergeant for the 439th Quartermaster Company.

The Army has in the past faced issues regarding keeping Soldiers fit to fight. As a solution to this problem they created the Army Performance Triad which identified three main categories: sleep, activity and nutrition.

“Food is absolutely essential to the health and welfare of the troops.” said Moore.
They’ve come together and made these healthy, wonderful meals for everyone, and it’s very impressive, Moore added.

“You are only as good as your last meal,” said Blais.

In any Army activity, planning is one of the crucial steps that can’t afford to be taken lightly. If proper planning isn’t done the integrity of the mission can be compromised and result in failure.

Planning is an absolute key to running an operation like this, said Capt. Sarah Gleason, company commander of the 439th Quartermaster Company. You need to know how many people you’re feeding and the hours of operation so you can backwards plan properly.
“When you’re cooking for this many people you can’t just slap it all together at the last minute, but at the same time you have to be flexible,” Gleason added.

We make sure no matter what time your mission happens, whether in the middle of the day or the middle of the night, you will be fed, Gleason added.

“The last Soldier should have the same food options as the first Soldier,” said Blais.
“Cohesion is a major component of how we can accomplish so much,” said Moore. “We all need each other to complete our missions.”

Remember to take care of your cooks, because they take care of you, Moore added. Without food you can’t make it, so without these cooks we couldn’t make it.

372nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
Story by Spc. James Bradford

About U.S. Army Garrison Fort A.P. Hill

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