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Soldiers Compete for Barbecue Bragging Rights

By Army 1st Lt. Juan Torres Jr.
Special to American Forces Press Service

CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE HUNTER, Iraq, Nov. 16, 2009 – A little bit of home made its way to this remote base in Iraq’s Maysan province recently, as soldiers tested their skills in a barbecue competition.

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Army Sgt. 1st Class Aric Quitugua tends to hamburgers and sausages during a barbecue cook-off at Contingency Operating Site Hunter, Iraq, Nov. 1, 2009. U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Juan Torres Jr.

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Despite unexpected downpours, violent wind gusts and hail Nov. 1, an afternoon that might otherwise have been lost to inclement weather served instead as a cloudy backdrop for a delicious contest at Task Force Saber.

“If it ain’t raining, we ain’t training,” Army Capt. Rick Cook said with a laugh. Cook is attached to Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 2nd Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regiment.

“But seriously,” the captain added, “the competitors really came through and cooked up some scrumptious dishes under less-than-favorable conditions. The rain was just a challenge they needed to overcome to win. Once they got on a cooking ‘glide path,’ everything really fell into place.”

Soldiers used closely guarded spice and sauce combinations from their hometowns, some getting their secret ingredients from as far as Washington and Georgia. They hovered over charcoal and flames as they turned otherwise average ribs, steaks and chicken into personalized, mouth-watering, culinary creations.

The competition’s judges, spearheaded by Army Sgt. Maj. Steve Lewis, squadron operations sergeant major, based their appraisals on factors including taste, texture and presentation.

“The seasonings used by [B Troop] were probably the best,” Lewis said. “They weren’t planning on sharing their secret recipe, though.”

Teams spent the final minutes of the competition perfecting their presentations, using each second to make memorable first impressions. Leading the way in overall presentation, B Troop pulled out all the stops: silver plates with matching cutlery created a sight no judge could ignore.

“We certainly took presentation into account while assessing the entries,” Lewis said.

Border Transition Team Tribal, led by Army Master Sgt. Michael Grimes, used just the right blend of seasoning, mixed with a little personal touch and a dash of experience, to push its dishes into victory lane.

By the end of the competition, a broad representation of other victors emerged, including B Troop for the best chicken, and B Company, 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment for the best steak.

(Army 1st Lt. Juan Torres Jr. serves with the 1st Armored Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team.)

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Related Sites:
Multinational Corps Iraq

Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy 1st Sgt. Michael Green slices into a steak during a barbecue cook-off at Contingency Operating Site Hunter, Iraq, Nov. 1, 2009. U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Juan Torres Jr.  
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