NCO improves detainee food program
April 23, 2011
At the age of 16 he started his first job in the food service industry as a dishwasher at a local restaurant. Going home soaked wet everyday didn't stop this teenager from succeeding in the food service industry. He used his love and interest for serving up the best possible meal for his customers, earning him the position of kitchen manager eight years later. In 2004, he combined his passion to prepare the best meal and love for his country by enlisting in the Army as a food service specialist.
Today, Sgt. Jeremy McPhail, from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, a detainee dining facility noncommissioned officer-in-charge, Headquarters Headquarters Company, 40th Military Police Battalion set a goal to improve the existing food program at the Theater Interment Facility located on Camp Cropper to provide the most nutritional and appetizing meals possible for the detainees.
Although this deployment is Mcphail's first, he is no rookie when it comes to preparing meals for other people. He brings with him more than nine years of food service experience from several food chains in Kansas. He has received culinary awards, including the Installation Management Command Korea Culinary NCO of the Quarter and 1st Infantry Division Culinary NCO of the Quarter. He credits his experience for his expertise in the food service field.
"My prior work experience helped me improve meals based on customer feedback. With feedback, I apply food preparation techniques and procedures from my past work experiences to meet their requirements," said McPhail.
McPhail has prepared meals for Soldiers and distinguished visitors such as General George W. Casey and General Martin E. Dempsey. He also taught a cooking class at Fort Leavenworth entitled Cooking Nutritionally in the Single Soldiers Quarters.
During his arrival in Iraq, McPhail was faced with a different challenge to prepare meals. This time it wasn't for Soldiers or any service members, but for detainees in Iraq.
McPhail quickly realized that the importance of his unit's mission depends highly on his job to feed the detainees.
"Food plays a key role in the way the detainees behave," said McPhail. "When detainees are fed properly it keeps our detainee operation running smoothly."
Although the United States government provides detainees with three meals a day that meet Iraqi cultural requirements provided by bi-lingual and bi-cultural advisors, McPhail still saw room for improvement.
With McPhail's drive for perfection, he reviewed ground surveys from the detainees and started to look for ways to improve the existing meals.
Faced with the cultural differences, McPhail worked hand-in-hand with the Iraqi bi-lingual and bi-cultural advisors to get information on what kind of food detainees prefer based on their culture.
"Based on the ground surveys and input from bi-lingual and bi-cultural advisors, I worked with the food contractor in choosing the right spices, executing different meal-preparation techniques for meats, vegetables and pastries to enhance the detainee food program with no additional expenses," said McPhail.
"After all the revisions on spices and cooking procedures, we do sample-tastings with bi-lingual and bi-cultural advisors to ensure that meals are prepared with detainee culture-specific requirements," he said.
McPhail also worked with dieticians and nutritionists to ensure the changes he made met the detainee's dietary and nutritional needs.
As a result of his efforts, detainees now enjoy meals like Al Biryani, a traditional Iraqi meal consisting of rice and lamb, grilled foods made with fish or chicken, and beef kabobs included in their 28-day menu.
Slight meal modifications like adding three additional fruits to an existing two-fruit menu, and adding Arabic cheese and jam made a big difference in detainee food satisfaction.
"A carefully-planned menu creates a robust variety and insuring proper rotation of all available rations increases detainee satisfaction," said McPhail.
Since the modification of the meals, the unit gained superior compliance from detainees and improved the detainee-ground surveys they receive on a weekly basis.
Seven years later McPhail adds to his list of accomplishments, the improvement of the detainee food program. Accomplishing his goal to meet or exceed detainee food satisfaction helped the 40th MP Bn. increased detainee compliance and mission readiness.