Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Expeditionary food service Marines serve up morale in southern Afghanistan

Date written: March 26, 2009
Story by Lance Cpl. Brian D. Jones

FARAH PROVINCE, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – Expeditionary food service Marines are dedicated to improving the quality of food served to Marines in the southern region of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

The Marines of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (Reinforced), the ground combat element of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Afghanistan, rely on their cooks each day to provide them with well-balanced, wholesome meals to keep the infantrymen going strong.

Gunnery Sgt. Joseph M. Doby, 3/8’s mess chief, takes on that responsibility with pride. Doby, the honor graduate of Food Service Staff Noncommissioned Officer School last year at Fort Lee, Va., oversees daily food service operations and maintenance for the battalion. He is responsible for supplying the forward operating bases and combat outposts with quality food and food service equipment. When time permits, he operates a “chuck wagon,” a mobile feeding unit complete with a refrigerator and gas grills, to help raise the battalion’s morale.

“Gunnery Sgt. Doby is a good guy, and he does as much as he can for the Marines in Afghanistan,” said Cpl. Matthew J. Ford, a food service specialist.

Doby has eight cooks spread out over the 1,200-man battalion’s area of operations, which is about the size of the state of Vermont. They wake up well before sunrise to begin their day. They typically only cook breakfast and dinner because Marines are usually too busy during the midday to stop and grab a bite to eat. Instead, Meals, Ready-to-Eat are provided.

At FOB Delaram, the largest of 3/8’s FOBs, the cooks feed 400 to 600 people daily, which is no small task given the austere environment of Afghanistan.

“Here, you have to be willing to think outside of the box,” said Doby. “(Back home), you have running water and electricity. Here we have to do a lot of extra work to make things happen.”

Luckily for the cooks at Delaram, Doby was able to acquire a field food service system, or field kitchen. It came complete with utensils, washing and cooking equipment, sinks, refrigeration, a combination oven, prep-tables, two steam kettles, a fryer, two serving lines and electrical generators. The cooks also have both outdoor refrigerators and freezers. The kitchen can feed up to 850 people twice a day.

“You can do a lot of stuff in that kitchen,” said Doby.
The cooks at Delaram don’t go it alone though. They get plenty of volunteer assistance from the Marines at the FOB to help with daily preparations, cooking and serving the meals.

“I like when (infantrymen) come through the line after I’ve been closed for six hours and they’re starving, and I can pull a meal together to feed them,” said Lance Cpl. Dennis Escalante, a food service specialist who works in the Delaram kitchen.

The other locations where 3/8 Marines carry out their infantry missions aren’t as fortunate to have a field food service system, but Doby does all he can to ensure they receive quality food as well.

“When I can do something to improve their quality of life and give them the assets to cook a better ration and push those rations out to them, it is going to raise morale,” said Doby.

Doby continues to come up with ideas to improve food service at FOBs and COPs. He is currently working to put in new hand washing stations and gravity-fed sinks at the locations that don’t have them.

During a recent operation, Doby barbequed steaks, cooked pizzas and corn-on-the-cob, and provided sport drinks for the Marines. The Marines had been diligently working to conduct cordon and search missions, deliberate targeting of suspected insurgent cells and security patrols in southern Afghanistan. Doby’s “chuck wagon” provided refreshing hot-cooked meals for those Marines who had gone without them for many days.

“My favorite part of the job is seeing Marines happy,” said Doby. “It makes me happy to see Marines happy.”
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