Army Cooks in Afghanistan Provide a Taste of Home
By Capt. Kenya V. Saenz, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHARANA, Afghanistan, Apr. 1, 2008 Army cooks from Task Force Pacemaker in Afghanistan are providing their own unique touch and a taste of home with each hot meal they serve to soldiers throughout Regional Command East.
Cooks from Task Force Pacemaker, deployed from Fort Lewis Wash., prepare lunch for soldiers at the Reception, Staging, Onward Movements and Integration dining facility at Forward Operating Base Sharana, Afghanistan, March 4, 2008. Photo by Capt. Kenya V. Saenz, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The Task Force Pacemaker Headquarters Support Company cooks, deployed from Fort Lewis, Wash., work throughout RC-East, often in remote areas for extended durations.
“Our cooks use the Army-standard recipes as a guide, but as soon as a new cook learns those standards, we show them how to customize the recipe, and this is what makes it a traditional homemade taste,” said Army Staff Sgt. Melanie Scott, lead cook at the Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration dining facility here. “Our weekly barbecues are the most loved meals by the soldiers.”
Scott, a Grosse Ile, Mich., native, has a staff of eight military cooks and 16 Afghans who work on midnight and day shifts.
“Transportation has been a challenge, getting supplies to these remote locations,” Scott said. “KBR and other contractors do not support these locations for security reasons.
“Army cooks are more than capable and prepared for these kinds of missions,” Scott said. “During the winter and in the rainy season, it is especially hard for supplies to get to these areas.”
Army Pvt. Christopher Henderson, a Beech Grove, Ind., native, studied the culinary arts before joining the Army. “I like to know that someone enjoys the food I prepare,” he said. “Those compliments make my day.”
Henderson has been cooking for two years. Army Spc. Michele Maximova, a 70th Engineers cook attached to Task Force Pacemaker, has 13 years of previous experience as a chef.
“I love feeding soldiers,” the Cleveland native said. “The biggest challenge is the lack of products available in the theater of operations. We have to improvise with food; for example we have to use one type of stew beef and use it for six different varieties. I love being an Army cook.”
Army Maj. James DeLapp, a Barrington, Ill., native and Task Force Pacemaker executive officer said the dining facilities run by the Army cooks here rival the contracted dining facilities.
“The cooks take more time in preparing the food and adding their personal touches,” DeLapp said. “Soldiers and civilians walk across the FOB to enjoy their meals and wait in line when they would not have to at other contracted dining facilities.”
The Pacemaker cooks established dining facilities at new FOBs throughout Afghanistan such as FOB Logar, Combat Outpost Herrera, FOB Kushmond and Khyr Kot Castle.
These Army cooks continue to provide more than just the essential food rations needed for survival; they also provide a taste of home during deployment.
(Army Capt. Kenya V. Saenz serves with Task Force Pacemaker Public Affairs.)