FORT POLK — For the first time in many years, rotational culinary specialists (MOS 92G) have provided meals not only for their rotational Soldiers at the Joint Readiness Training Center, but also following the rotation in a fixed dining facility as the Soldiers prepare to return home.
Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Turner heads a team of 40 culinary specialists as part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. He said his Soldiers were up to the task.
“As far as we understand, this is the first time on Fort Polk that Soldiers have fed their unit once they left the field,” Turner said. “Before now, the Soldiers were fed by their 92Gs in the field, then civilian contractors once they left the field and began redeployment preparations.”
Turner said the change was dramatic for the culinary specialists. “Normally, when they are in a fixed dining facility, they are used to feeding a battalion (a few hundred Soldiers),” he said. “Now they are feeding a brigade combat team, or a few thousand Soldiers.”
Turner said feeding such a large number of Soldiers gives the 92Gs a chance for more training. “Anytime you can do more training, that’s good,” he said. “You get to hone your skills and maximize the training opportunity.”
Another positive for Turner and his team was the chance to train in an indoor environment.
“Our guys love to do the feeding at the rear inside a building — the weather is a lot better,” Turner said, a smile on his face. “It isn’t raining on you and you aren’t lying in the dirt. And when you have to produce a large amount of food it’s easier inside than out in the field.”
There was one drawback — Turner said the Soldiers had to prepare food and get their equipment ready to ship home at the same time.
“Before, we would feed in the field, then when we prepped for the redeployment all we had to deal with was getting our equipment ready to ship home,” he said. “Now we have to do that and feed the BCT two meals a day. As a supervisor, I’m willing to accept the challenge, especially since they told us it hasn’t been done before. We’ll make it happen. Granted, it puts a little more stress on the Soldiers, but we’re used to that.”
Sgt. Keiyon Pope was part of the feeding team and said the additional work was a good experience.
“A lot of our Soldiers have never worked in a consolidated field dining facility like this before,” he said. “It’s been kind of stressful, but as NCOs, we have to stay the course and maintain the discipline for both ourselves and our Soldiers. We try to put our best foot forward and keep the team motivated.”
Sgt. Willie Morgan, also part of the team, agreed. “We take pride in everything we do,” he said. “It’s a little stressful because after 30 days in the field, everyone wants to get home. But it’s not that bad, we can adjust.”
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael Barnes, JRTC and Fort Polk food service advisor, said Army leadership wanted to test the viability of units supporting themselves during an entire rotation. They chose the 2nd BCT, 82 Abn Div, and rotation 18-06 at JRTC as the first test.
“From what I’ve seen, the test has worked very well,” Barnes said. “So well in fact, that the test will continue with the next rotation.”
Rotation 18-07 will test the Georgia Army National Guard’s 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. Barnes said he has already begun work with the food service specialists from Georgia.
“They’re ready to hit the ground running,” he said.