The U.S. Army has a number of recruiting commercials designed to instill a warrior spirit in the American public. From jumping out of airplanes to fast roping from a Blackhawk helicopter to patrolling a thick jungle, young men and women are shown at the tip of the spear standing ready to defend our nation against aggressors.
Sometimes lost in the "Hooah!" can be an appreciation for support personnel and their duties. That's why Soldiers from Headquarters Support Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, U.S. Army South took to the field Aug. 6 for a chance to get acquainted with the Containerized Kitchen and the food service military occupational specialty during their Sergeant's Time Training block of instruction.
"The purpose of this training is to familiarize our Soldiers with this containerized kitchen and to teach them the skills necessary to maintain life and provide more nutritional meals while in a deployed environment," said Staff Sgt. Alberto Peters, a food operations noncommissioned officer assigned to HSC.
As headquarters support personnel, Soldiers understand they may be called upon to perform a myriad of tasks aside from their primary military occupational specialty, especially if deployed to a foreign country in support of humanitarian or disaster relief operations.
"Cross-training Soldiers in different MOSs is very important to our organization due to the limitations we have," said said 1st Sgt. Rodney Washington, the HSC first sergeant. "With the down-sizing of the military, most units will not have the luxury of having the required numbers of MOS Soldiers to fulfill their mission sets. Cross-training Soldiers in a different MOS is the best way to make more with less."
The Soldiers began the training by engaging in a period of instruction, led by Peters, focused on the purpose and modifications of the containerized kitchen, a mobile kitchen capable of providing flexible, efficient, rapidly deployable meal preparation capability in the field. Staffed and run correctly, it is capable of supporting approximately 800 Soldiers with three hot meals per day.
However, to be able to properly maximize the equipment's aptitude, Peters emphasized training the Soldiers here in garrison is paramount to ensuring success down range.
"Once we're out there, it's highly encouraged that these Soldiers know what they are doing," said Peters. "If we don't know what we're doing, that means other Soldiers aren't getting the nutrition they need to complete their missions."
After describing the kitchen, the Soldiers set to work on expanding and setting up the kitchen, something very few of them had ever seen done, let alone taken part of. Washington feels this type of hands on training gives the Soldiers a greater appreciation for their fellow brothers-in-arms.
"As you look at the Soldiers that were involved with the training, 95 percent of them were not affiliated with the food service MOS," said Washington. "We had a myriad of career fields to include infantrymen, scouts, and equipment maintainers. For each of these Soldiers to spend a moment in the life of another, not only did they learn invaluable skills, but it also allowed them to spend a few hours being able to respect the fact that even though our food service Soldiers may not spend a majority of their time putting rounds down-range, their job is equally important and is not one that should be taken lightly."
After the last piece was in place, the ovens were fired up and the Soldiers were treated to pizzas cooked in the kitchen they helped set up.
One of Peters' fellow Soldiers assisting in the instructing the Soldiers was Sgt. John Coleman, a food operations NCO assigned to HSC. Coleman understands the job competency and respect go hand-in-hand when it comes to support operations.
"For the Soldiers to be able to experience a small part of what we go through means a lot," said Coleman. "I wish we had more time out here to be able to let the Soldiers not only set up the kitchen, but to get inside and feel the heat as they prepare meals. I think if they were able to feel that heat, they would gain a greater respect for this MOS."
According to Peters, the pizzas weren't just a training tool used to illustrate the effectiveness of the kitchen, but also a gesture of gratitude to the Soldiers who came out to learn more about his military specialty; a specialty he admits he still finds himself learning more about every day.
"This kind of familiarization training is good for all Soldiers, not just Soldiers outside of the food service specialty," said Peters. "Even for somebody like myself, who has operated similar types of equipment for 11 years, I ended up learning something today."