Signal soldiers thrive on homestyle field cooking
FORT MEADE. Md. — Signal soldiers involved in Grecian Firebolt 2003 may thrive on the jolt derived from communicating through thousands of miles, but they actually live on the food prepared for them by the cooks.
On a normal GF day, hundreds of soldiers pass through the dining facility. Meal preparation takes more than four hours, and clean up takes about two-and-a-half-hours, said SGT Leonard S. Woolfolk Jr., a cook for the 311th Theater Signal Command. SGT Woolfolk, along with three other cooks provided hot meals for hungry soldiers here.
“A cook is like a doctor,” said SGT Woolfolk. “You take food and doctor it up to people’s liking and make it appeal to the five senses. Troops come in and expect a good meal. I wouldn’t serve anything I wouldn’t eat myself.”
While chow is normally served in the unit’s dining facility, when in the field, Woolfolk and crew use a mobile kitchen trailer.
In addition to supplying meals to the troops, cooks supplied all guest units with water in the field, filling large basins with chilled bottled water for all personnel that participated in GF at the 311th TSC.
Meanwhile, at Fort Dix, N.J., cooks from the 261st Signal Brigade introduced the Army’s newest field rations to the troops.
“We used unitized group rations meals and they were great,” said MSG Henry Fields, 261st Signal Brigade S-4 noncommissioned officer-in-charge. “With those meals, we could have steak and eggs for breakfast, and the meal comes with everything you need, even a plastic bag for clean up. It helped keep the morale of the soldiers up.”
CPT Samantha Kabi, acting S-4, said the UGRs are the newest field meal and approximately 50 percent of the meals are precooked.
“Of all the Army meals, these are the best ever,” she said.
To feed the task force of more than 160 soldiers, meals were drawn every three days from the Troop Issue Subsistence Activity and ice was picked up every day at Fort Dix for soldiers that participated in the exercise.
The cooking was divided up between the 261st and the airmen of the 103d Air Control Squadron, of the Connecticut Air National Guard.
“We brought the cooks together and then after the first few days we divided them into two groups.” said Fields. “It worked out that the Army and Air Guard guys each wanted to work with their own units, so we traded off every day who was responsible for the meals.”
The trade-off made for some friendly competition, but no one lost sight of the final goal: to feed the troops.
“The ‘U.S.’ on our uniforms doesn’t just stand for United States, it [also] stands for ‘us’, a team,” said SSG Harry Legates Jr., the acting food service NCOIC. “Working with the Air Force was outstanding.”
A hot breakfast and dinner were served every day with a meals-ready-to-eat for lunch.
Additionally, fresh fruit like bananas and oranges were available all day.
“The overall preparation and taste of the food was great,” said CPT Troy Blumhorst, S-3 of the 261st Signal Brigade. “The steak on the grill for Father’s Day was great and I especially liked the cheese omelets in the morning.”
Nevertheless, field cooking can pose unique problems.
“The way that the weather has been has made it a little difficult,” said Air Force SSG Manny Montanez, senior cook for the 103rd. “By the time the soldiers get their food and come out to get their condiments, the food is already a little cold. But, we all face that.”
Air Force SSG Shannon Weathersby said she still gets a thrill out of cooking for others.
“I love to cook,” said Weathersby, who hopes to open her own restaurant one day. “Serving the meal to the Army guys, they were shocked we had smiles on our faces. I liked how the soldiers appreciated eating our food.”
Of course, after a full day of meals, the dishes don’t clean themselves; that’s where the kitchen patrol come in.
“I had KP on my very first day here and it helped me get to meet everyone,” said SPC Shannon Haisman. “It was a long day, but it was fun.”
ACS–Air Control Squadron
NCOIC–non commissioned officer-in-charge
UGR–unitized group rations
SGT Nye and SPC Roache write for the 444th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Delaware Army National Guard.
PVT 2 Bergerson is a recent graduate of the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Md.
COPYRIGHT 2003 U.S. Army Signal Center
COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group