FORT MEADE, Md. -- Thinking outside the box.
That's how Army Reserve's Sgt. Toni Hurlston, Suitland, Md.-native, described the afternoon's lunch menu as her cooks were making grilled Mongolian specialties.
"We take the Army Reserve's 21-meal plan and think outside the box," she said as Soldiers filed through the Mobile Kitchen Trailer during the 200th Military Police Command's monthly battle assembly weekend Aug. 3.
Although it was raining and the unit cooks had access to a large kitchen attached to the dining facility, Hurlston said each quarter the cooks train with the MKT.
"We must be able to adapt to any situation," she said. "Kitchens are not always going to be available to Army cooks. They need to have the training to succeed as a cook."
Chief Warrant Officer Rick Farran said all Soldiers must be ready for the next war or emergency, and that includes Army Reserve cooks.
"A mobilization is not the time to learn how to use the MKT," he said. "The time is now, and Soldiers at the 200th MPCOM are taking that time seriously. The time to maintain their equipment is during battle assembly weekends and not right before an annual training or as they go out the door into harm's way."
Standing in line with several Soldiers was Maj. Gen. Phillip Churn, commanding general of the Fort Meade-based Army Reserve's 200th MPCOM, where he commands more than 13,000 Soldiers living in 44 states.
"Outstanding," he told the cooks. "This is great Army training for our cooks and our Soldiers get some great food."
After making his selection from several types of meat, Spc. Joe Slade, from Watertown, N.Y, quickly went into action adding another meal to the field grill. During the time to cook the chicken, Churn had time to talk with the cooks and find out the secrets behind the stainless steal spatulas.
"These cooks must have passion," said Farran. "We know they are technically capable of cooking a meal, but our cooks need and passion and drive to provide a great meal for the troops. It can definitely show in the food if they don't have the passion."
Hurlston said her former noncommissioned officer-in-charge challenged to take the ingredients from the meal plan set by the U.S Army Reserve Command and do something special.
"We love to make our customers happy," she told Churn as she mixed several ingredients into a small bowl and tossed onto the nearby grill.
"Well I will soon be very happy after I get to sit down and eat what your troops are preparing," Churn replied.
Churn said having cooks preparing meals is a win-win situation for everything.
"We have the best cooks in the Army Reserve," he told the Soldiers working behind the small glass barrier. "I appreciate what you are doing today and everyday for our command. Never forget that."
As Slade passed the plate to the senior officer in the command, a simple "thank you" from Churn made a visible difference.
"I always loved to cook," Slade said about why he joined the Army Reserve six years ago to be an Army cook. "I baked and cooked for my nieces and now I get to do it for hundreds of Soldiers."
As the NCOIC, Hurlston said after the day was done and the MKT folded back down, she said she hoped her Soldiers walked away with knowledge of new information.
"It's easy cooking in kitchen," she said. "There are different techniques working with an MKT. Today, they demonstrated they could cook on a grill inside an MKT. We love what we do. We make people happy."