FORWARD OPERATING BASE HIT, Iraq -- While on a long deployment overseas, Marines look forward to from letters from home, the occasional phone call or photos sent from their loved ones.
These are the times where it’s the little things that matter so much – showers, a warm place to sleep and hot chow. To add one more item to this list, Marines from the 2nd Marine Logistics Group’s Food Service Company recently set up a Field Food Service System to support the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) at the unit’s base of operations, Forward Operating Base Hit, Iraq.
The Field Food Service System, one of less than half a dozen in Iraq, enables Marines to have fresh, hot meals chow under the most austere field conditions.
“This system gives our cooks the capably to serve good chow to Marines in country,” said Sgt. James Parks, of Richmond, Va., a galley [kitchen] captain. “We serve the Marines cooked breakfasts and dinners because no one wants to eat tray rations and MREs [Meals-Ready-to-Eat] all the time.”
This is such a big morale boost for the Marines, said Parks. You could see it after the first meal we served them.
The new food service system provides all the cooking capabilities of a regular dinning facility along with the ability to be relocated quickly. The system is separated into two sections; the Marine Rapid Deploy Kitchen and the scullery, or dish and pot washing area.
Available with the system are 13 standard menus and accruements, not to include the specialty menus the Marines serve on holidays. With each meal comes one meat, one starch, and one vegetable, and with a serving line capable of holding up to six different items. This way food service specialists are able to mix up the menu items so the Marines don’t have to eat the same thing all the time.
“The kitchen may be in the field, but the food is just like home, and that’s the least these hard-working Marines deserve,” said Parks. “Now when the Marines get asked that popular deployment question ‘Are you eating good?’ they can truthfully say ‘yes’.”
To keep from over running the new facility the Marines at FOB Hit only cook two meals a day. After feeding more than 1,500 service members and the time it takes to clean up, the seven food service specialists manning the kitchen wouldn’t have enough time to catch their breath before they had to begin preparing for the next meal. While they only prepare two meal a day, their daily work hours often run from 3 a.m. until 9 p.m.
“This chow is amazing to be field rations,” said Lance Cpl. Douglas Smith, a Bridgeton, N.J. native and scout sniper with BLT 1/2. “It sure beats eating MREs all the time.”
Aiding the 2nd MLG Marines are food service specialists from the MEU’s Command Element, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Bn., 2nd Marines, and MEU Service Support Group 22, who are learning how to operate and maintain the new cooking facility in the field so they in turn can support the MEU’s Marines and sailors.
“Hot food is important to Marines,” said Lance Cpl. Robert Smith, of Lancaster, Pa., a food service specialist with 2nd MLG. “I work long hours, but it’s worth it to see my fellow Marines happy.”
In addition to its CE, BLT 1/2, and MSSG-22; the MEU consists of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced), which is currently supporting both the MEU and other maneuver elements in Iraq’s Al Anbar province.
For more information on the 22nd MEU (SOC)’s role in Operation Iraqi Freedom, visit the unit’s web site at http://www.22meu.usmc.mil.