SPEICHER, Iraq - Grills sizzled and mouths watered Sept. 19 as U.S. Soldiers serving in Iraq prepared for their first ever cook-off. The competition pit personnel from several sections of an aviation company against each other in a barbecuing challenge.

The company is stationed on Contingency Operating Base Speicher as part of the Enhanced Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, an all-in-one Army aviation brigade from Fort Riley, Kan. The unit deployed this March in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and is now the only aviation brigade deployed to Iraq.

But even with an increased work-load, the aviators still have time for a bit of fun.

The company first sergeant, 1st Sgt. Jeffrey Dran, said that platoons had been grilling throughout the deployment, often bragging about who had the best recipe. This gave him the idea to start a competition to "see who really had the best stuff," he said.

"We wanted to promote more esprit de corps and boost morale throughout the company," said Dran.

Cpt. James Robinson Jr., the company's commander, also supported the competition.

"It's good for the Soldiers to express themselves through cooking. It gives them an opportunity to show off what cooking skills they might have."

The troops cooked a feast of steak, turkey, chicken, shrimp, lobster, and other treats. They kept the spirit of the deployment alive too, using paper plates and aluminum foil-lined ammunition cans to hold their marinades.

The troops grilled for nearly two hours before presenting their food to a panel of judges, comprised of some of the unit's senior leadership. The judges scored the food on presentation, taste, and variety.

The headquarters platoon took first place, earning bragging rights and a trophy. Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Marshall, who manned the grill the majority of the afternoon, accepted the trophy on behalf of the platoon.

"I didn't do this alone. I have to thank everybody in headquarters platoon that pitched in from the seasoning down to the cooking," said Marshall.

"This is the happiest day of my deployment," said Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Wood, a judge during the competition. Wood added that he was impressed with the effort the Soldiers showed.

While the headquarters platoon plans on keeping the trophy for a while, they may soon lose their bragging rights. Rival platoons are already planning a come-back.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16