FORT LEWIS, Wash. - Hard work, professionalism and dedication have paid off for a Fort Lewis team of cooks from 402nd Brigade Support Battalion.

They comprise one of three teams that won the Philip A. Connelly competition in the field kitchen category at Forces Command, and they will compete Dec. 3 at the Department of Army level. The other winning teams were from Fort Bragg, N.C., and Fort Irwin, Calif.

"This award is designed to recognize excellence in Army food service at each level of competition," said Maj. Gen. Jerome Johnson, FORSCOM G-4.

Johnson visited Fort Lewis Nov. 6 for the FORSCOM award presentation ceremony.

Sergeant 1st Class Brian Griffin, NCO in charge, accepted a plaque on behalf of the 402nd BSB. In addition to the unit award, individual certificates were awarded to the Soldiers on the team.

"Units that compete in the field kitchen category are measured in 10 different areas," Johnson said. "They range from command support, site selection, meal production, serving of the meal and customer feedback."

One winner and one runner-up will be selected at the DA level. The DA winner will receive a plaque, a silver bowl and certificates. One of the cooks will be sent to a culinary institute in Atlanta, Ga., and will attend an awards ceremony.

To prepare for the upcoming DA competition, the 402nd BSB cooks trained in the field last week.

Sergeant Major Randy St. Cyr, food service sergeant major, FORSCOM, and Brenda Parks, a civilian logistics management specialist, spent three days in the field with each of the winning teams at their home installations to help prepare them for the DA competition.

When the FORSCOM team was here in August, they evaluated the unit's field kitchen at Yakima Training Center, and selected them as a winner.

"They had an outstanding field cooking layout and they had some great cooking procedures," Parks said.

St. Cyr said he noticed that the 402nd BSB cooks had well-trained NCOs with a commitment to excellence.

"They want to make it better, as good as it can be - that's why we're here," he said. "Right now we are training on cooking procedures."

The FORSCOM trainers looked at site layout, sanitation, food preparation and administrative paperwork.

"We want these young men and women to be competitive at the Department of Army level," Parks said.

Although this will be the first Philip A. Connelly competition for the 402nd BSB Soldiers at this level, they have the desire to do their best to win and having that desire is important, said Sgt. Maj. Ricky Gaines, I Corps food service sergeant major.

"There is no greater love than the love of food," Gaines said. "Folks just don't forget great flavor."

According to Staff Sgt. Orinthial Floyd, the team's shift leader, the greatest challenge they face will likely be the weather, which can make a significant difference in a field cooking competition.

"I think we will also do really well on the setup at the site. It will be an especially good site," Floyd said. "Everyone works really well together. We have great teamwork."

That trait will be essential, according to St. Cyr, because it will be a tough competition with only one winner.

"This is like the Super Bowl in cooking," St. Cyr said.

Specialist Robert Mahon, a team member who has been an Army cook for six years, said he has always enjoyed cooking.

"Once you learn the job, it's easy," Mahon said. "I also like cooking because it's something I can take with me. It's a practical skill that I can apply in civilian life."

Private Sarah Cash, who has been at Fort Lewis for 10 months, likes being an Army cook for other reasons.

"The part I like best is serving people," she said. "I get to see them smile while getting their food."

St. Cyr said the customer is the real reason behind both the competition and the training.
"Food service is always customer driven to provide top-quality meals for today's war fighters," he said.

Field kitchen team
Aca,!Ac Sgt. 1st Class Brian Griffin, NCOIC
Aca,!Ac Staff Sgt. Orinthial Floyd
Aca,!Ac Sgt. Misty Alvarez
Aca,!Ac Sgt. Ruben Cancel
Aca,!Ac Spc. Chad Cox
Aca,!Ac Spc. Thomas James
Aca,!Ac Spc. Steven Luther
Aca,!Ac Spc. Robert Mahon
Aca,!Ac Pvt. Sarah Cash

Barbara L. Sellers is a reporter with Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.