SAMAESAN, Thailand - There are many vital support elements needed for a successful deployment, but the Marines who may get the least amount of credit are the food service specialists.
The food service specialists of Combat Logistics Battalion 31, deployed to Thailand in support of Exercise Cobra Gold 2009, established a field mess here that is capable of supporting about 250 Marines.
Cobra Gold is an annual joint, coalition multinational exercise focused on maintaining and improving military interoperability among its participants.
This handful of food service specialists accomplish their mission every day as they meet the ration requirements for Marines and sailors located in Samaesan for Cobra Gold.
"I have a pretty good feeling of accomplishment about this job," said Lance Cpl. Arlo M. James a Tallahassee, Fla. native and food service specialist with CLB-31, "It's an important job, and it needs to be done."
The food service Marines wake up no later than 4:30 a.m. daily in order to get all the prep work for morning chow completed by 6 a.m., when the field mess opens.
The rations for the field mess come in 50 man modules that are shipped from the U.S. to wherever the Marines need them, said Staff Sgt. William Wadsworth of Oak Harbor, Ohio, who is currently serving as the mess chief, CLB-31.
The rations used by the field mess have a shelf life of up to 18 months, not because of any extra preservatives, but because of the way they are packaged, said Capt. Richard Kohler, a native of Marion, Ohio and the III Marine Expeditionary Force food services officer. He added that they are always updating the variety of rations and improving the packaging in order to adapt to the changing expectations of the Marine Corps and society in general.
The Marines who utilize this field mess eat there in the morning and evening, while they receive a Meal Ready to Eat (MRE) for their lunch.
"With each module of rations that is received, we get enhancement pay, which allows us to go out, in country, and by fresh fruits and vegetables in order to make the chow better," said Wadsworth.
The enhancement pay is about 15 percent of what the modules cost, according to Kohler.
It takes a lot of planning, and many different variables can change the amount of rations required for the exercise. Food venders in the area, liberty during the exercise, and the number of Marines deployed at specific locations are just a few of the factors that can alter the field mess plan, according to Kohler.
The CLB-31 field mess here is just one of several field mess sites established for Marines and sailors deployed to Thailand in support of Exercise Cobra Gold.