FORT LEE, Va. (March 12, 2012) -- Dog Face Soldiers from the Third Infantry Division took the 37th Military Culinary Arts Competition and Fort Lee by storm Feb. 25 through March 9, winning 21 gold medals and claiming the coveted title of Installation of the Year.

The Military Culinary Arts Competition, or MCAC, started as a competition mainly between the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps, but expanded to all branches of the Armed Forces worldwide. This year's competition included 28 teams and 340 individual cooks sautéing, carving and plating against each other in more than 850 categories.

Some of the highlights from the event included winning not only the Installation of the Year, but also the Senior Chef of the Year, Sgt. Maj. David Turcotte, 3rd ID food service sergeant major; Junior Chef of the Year, Spc. Jacqueline Canidy, 92nd Engineer Battalion, 3rd ID; and the Student Team Skill Competition.

These three awards, along with numerous individual accomplishments, left many of their opponents scratching their heads. This is the first full team from 3rd ID to attend the competition at Fort Lee since 2007, due to numerous deployments.

The majority of the Fort Stewart team had little to no experience when it came to cooking in this type of setting. Several Soldiers on the team had no culinary background prior to the Army, including 19-year-old Pfc. Edralin Cruz, assigned to the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd ID. Her lack of experience did not slow her down or stop her from winning a gold medal in both the Practical and Contemporary Hot-Food Cooking, and Practical and Contemporary Patisserie categories.

"I was so happy I was jumping," Cruz said of her wins. "I was so nervous (during the competition)."

The crowning achievement for the competition was of course the Installation of the Year award. In the 37 years of the MCAC, Fort Stewart has never won the prestigious title. The Soldiers of the Marne Division attribute their victory to working together and helping each other throughout the two-week long event.

The majority of the dishes prepared for the event will likely not be served at the Fort Stewart dining facilities. However, the skill that went into the team's accomplishments will be evident.

This team could not have gone to Fort Lee and performed to this level if the support from the Soldiers' command groups had not been there, said Third Infantry Division Command Sgt. Maj. Edd Watson.

"I believe my expectations were exceeded way beyond my belief," Watson said. "I think everyone in the force needs to go back to chalkboard and say, 'how do I catch up?'"

This award, in combination with the Army Community of Excellence award, makes our installation one for others to strive to be like, Watson said. "Fort Stewart, Georgia, and the 3rd Infantry Division, is the place to be."

Page last updated Mon March 12th, 2012 at 00:00