Face of Defense: Extra Effort in Kitchen Keeps Morale High
By Sgt. Brandon Aird, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
FORWARD OPERATING BASE FORTRESS, Afghanistan, Dec. 17, 2007 “The Rock believes highly that food service support improves morale,” said Army Sgt. Joseph Smith, from Jackson, Mich.
Army Sgt. Joseph Smith, dining facility manager at Forward Operating Base Fortress, Afghanistan, cooks quesadillas for soldiers Dec. 6, 2007. Smith took orders and custom-cooked quesadillas. Photo by Sgt. Brandon Aird, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Smith is the dining facility manager at Forward Operating Base Fortress and a member of 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), which is known as “The Rock.”
Paratroopers in the battalion’s Company D and a platoon from Company C live at Forward Operating Base Fortress, near the Chowkay Valley in Kunar province.
The base is named Fortress due to 30-foot walls and four guard towers that surround it. Luckily for the soldiers here, Fortress is home to three cooks from “The Rock’s” support company, Company F.
The cooks prepare food for 150 to 200 soldiers who call Fortress home. The food comes in prepared packages, which are downloaded, prepared and cooked by Smith’s team. Smith explained they could simply cook the same meals over and over again, but they choose not to. The leadership in “The Rock” gives the cooks freedom to use their imagination when preparing meals.
“We get to put our personality into our cooking,” explained Spc. Jesse Ramirez, from Twin Cities, Minn. “Being able to add your own touch makes things more exciting.”
Smith explained that their dining facility was able to receive extra cooking utensils, which enabled them to cook a bigger variety of food. “We can do omelettes, crab cakes, quesadillas -- pretty much anything you want,” Smith said. “We even have taco night.”
The three cooks work 12 to 16 hours a day, said Spc. Nicholas Krueger. “Not all our time is spent in the kitchen,” Krueger explained. “We also help pull FOB security, download convoys and organize supplies.”
Recently, Smith and his team stayed up more than 32 hours in the kitchen to make sure the soldiers’ Thanksgiving meal was one to remember. “We take pride in our cooking,” Ramirez said. “Thanksgiving is our time to show off.”
“We work long hours, but we enjoy seeing happy soldiers, Smith said.”
(Army Sgt. Brandon Aird is assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs.)