Hot chow, cold grunts; a recipe for morale
June 3, 2014
HOHENFELS, Germany- Thirty tons of steel, ammunition and Soldiers from A-Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment waited in an M2A2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle for a resupply convoy atop the lush, green German countryside. Marble-sized rain droplets fell from the grizzly skies, and a sliver of sunlight peeked through at 9:03 p.m.
It was Memorial Day.
For Americans at home, it was a day of barbeque and beer; but for the men of A-Company, it was another 24 hours of skirmishes.
The Soldiers of 3rd platoon were crammed inside the Bradley. These vehicles look like a tank, but are designed to safely carry six infantrymen into battle.
The interior smells of body odor and is slippery from mud-caked boots; the men are in their second week of field maneuvers at exercise Combined Resolve II, a U.S. Army Europe-led training event including more than 4,000 Soldiers from 15 NATO and partner nations. The Soldiers of 2-5 traveled here from their home at Fort Hood, Texas to participate as the Army's European Rotational Force.
Tanks and heavy trucks turned the grassy knoll into a web of muddy tracks. First Lt. Jonathan Shelton, from Houston, Texas, was in the center of the brown clay. "When the weather turns and the rain hits, morale gets low," said Shelton.
Bradley Commander, New York native, Sgt. Jovan Galindez said, "it's wet, slippery and muddy. We got our (Bradley) stuck and had to get towed already."
"We're out here, tracks slipping and sliding, "said Bradley gunner, Spc. Brian Hill, as he signals for Galindez to drive their vehicle through mud, "it really gives me a new level of respect for those guys who fought on tracks, on these same grounds in World War II."
Under the protection of armor-clad gun trucks, the supply convoy operated by the 115th Brigade Support Battalion and 16th Sustainment Brigade Soldiers snaked into the middle of A-Company's formation. It brought fuel for the tanks, water to cool the fighting, and food for the men.
Galindez recalled, "we just thought it was fuel and an MRE resupply."
An MRE, or "Meal Ready to Eat," is the U.S. Armed Forces' standard field rations. MRE portions often have the consistency of baby food, and are packaged in plastic and cardboard.
One by one, the Bradleys' armored hatches opened, and the Soldiers discovered a group of military cooks from the convoy uncovering a line of steaming-hot food.
Shelton, the company's executive officer recalled, "we had (eaten MREs) for nine days straight, and it was the first warm meal that we had. Most of the guys didn't know hot chow was coming."
"We all just ran towards it, said Galindez, "as soon as we saw the drinks and cakes, it was on. It gives you the biggest smiles on your faces, especially when you know it's spaghetti and meatballs."
"Coffee," exclaimed Hill, "Fresh. Hot. Coffee."
"This is what we do; we feed the force," said Sgt. Carl Richardson, a cook from the 115th BSB from Long Beach, Calif.
"There's a lot of preparation involved in these food deliveries, but I'd rather be out here in the field doing this," said Pvt. Jesse Frey, a 115th BSB cook from Long Island, N.Y.
"It's been great experience working with 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division," said Sgt. Jedidiah Case, a 16th Sustainment Brigade cook who normally works at the 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion's dining facility at USAG Bavaria, Grafenwoehr, Germany.
"We've coordinated missions together to push these meals for troops morale," said Case.
Dark skies overtook the dreary scene and the resupply convoy left as the sound of creaking tracks migrated into the woods.
With full stomachs and fresh supplies, the men of A-Company navigated under the green haze of their night vision devices to prepare for the next day's battle.