Small cafe keeps busy Soldiers fed in Iraq
February 9, 2011
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - The Guardian CafAfA isn't much, but for the hundreds of Soldiers who visit it daily, it's enough.
The small cafAfA is housed in two trailers propped on cinder blocks, and it's the only place to eat for Soldiers here who don't have enough time to eat at the camp's main dining facility.
Located on Taji's airfield, the cafAfA feeds pilots, crews and mechanics deployed with the Enhanced Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division who often only have enough time for a quick bite before a mission.
What makes the Guardian CafAfA special is its staff, said Sgt. Corey Mankin, one of the noncommissioned officers in charge of the cafAfA. The crews that run the cafAfA 24-hours a day make it more than just a place to eat, she said.
"We're a huge morale booster for the Soldiers that come to eat," said Mankin. "Everyone's really thankful for the little things."
The cooks making the little things happen come from a diverse background, said Mankin. Some of the cafAfA's staff are culinary arts school graduates, while others entered the field on a whim, she said.
"The one thing we have in common is that we all picked this job for a different reason," she said. "We've come together and it's like we all have the common goal of making people happy."
Behind the scenes at the cafAfA, the crews work around the clock to keep the cafAfA stocked with food from the camp's main dining facility. A typical meal offers two or three meats, a starch, and a vegetable. For those flying during meal times, the cafAfA offers sandwiches and other snacks throughout the day.
"We don't always have what they want, but we try to keep everyone happy," said Mankin.
Spc. Ricardo Morales is one of the brigade's cooks who work at the cafAfA. His main responsibilities are setting up the food and making sure that it stays fresh, he said.
"It's a hard job," he said. "We do a lot of work that no one sees."
Despite his busy days at the cafAfA, Morales said he prefers to work there over the camp's main dining facility.
"Here we get to be more personal with the people that come in," he said. "It's good to make people happy."
The cafAfA will get new management this spring, when the brigade is scheduled to be replaced by a unit from the California National Guard.