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Reporter’s Notebook: Eatin’ Good in Afghanistan

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

FORWARD OPERATING BASE GARDEZ, Afghanistan, March 2, 2009 – I’ve eaten more lobster since I arrived here than I have in the past decade in the states.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Spc. Kiana Mealey serves up lobster tails and crab legs at an Army-run dining facility nicknamed “Olive Gardez,” Feb. 21, 2009, at Forward Operating Base Gardez, Afghanistan. DoD photo by Fred W. Baker III
  

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

Don’t tell my wife. She thinks I’m suffering.

One of the few Army-run chow halls I have come across in my travels is located here. The base was too small when it opened to justify a contractor’s service, so the Army took over the operations.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Vashon Rogers, who runs the consolidated facility nicknamed “Olive Gardez,” said as many as 800 people -- including soldiers, civilians and local Afghans who work here -- eat at the facility for any given meal.

Rogers’ staff is a mix of airmen and soldiers provided from units on the base and local Afghan employees. They serve more than 30 dozen eggs for breakfast every morning, washed down with 300 cups of coffee, and they go through 40 gallons of ice cream a day.

Every night has a theme, with Monday being Italian, Tuesday Mexican, and so on.

Saturday night is seafood night.

The lobsters and crab legs are shipped from the United States and driven down on a refrigerated truck from Bagram.

On seafood night, the crew serves up 400 of the tasty tails, 130 pounds of Alaskan King crab legs, and 135 pounds each of shrimp and scallops.

Don’t expect cold beers or fancy bibs, but Rogers’ crew heaps the tails and legs on troops’ plates as they go through the line. They’ll also throw on a steak if you want it.

Because of the growth of the forward operating base, another dining facility, contractor-run, has now opened. Rogers and his crew will be relieved of their duties this month, when this chow hall is taken over by contractors.

Rogers has served food in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and said the troops here appreciate the fact that fellow servicemembers are serving up their food.

“We put a little more love and flavoring in our food,” he said.

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Related Sites:
Special Report: On Location in Afghanistan


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