CAMP SENDAI, Sendai, Japan -- The Thunderbolt Brigade has moved from country to country in support of America's First Corps as the Force Field Artillery Headquarters and working with their bilateral partners in each of these countries, over the past eight months. Sometimes during these exercises there is a little down time to experience the culture of the hosting country.

As a friendly competition during Yama Sakura 73, an annual bilateral command post exercise involving the U.S. Military and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, the culinary specialists from each of the attending militaries, ignited a flame and cooked up some chicken wings and a dessert for an Iron Chief Competition.

One 17th Field Artillery soldiers, Master Sgt. Herman Hodges, a brigade operations sergeant, participated as a judge for the Iron Chief competition on Dec. 3, 2017.

"I enjoyed being one of the judges for the competition," said Hodges. "The food was very good and different from what I'm used to."

The Iron Chief competition was between four groups, the 6th Division, Japan Northeastern Army, (Cherry Blossoms of Dewa) the 9th Division, Japan Northeastern Army, (Professional Nine) the 4th Air Wing, Japan Air Self-Defense Force (Team Matsushima), and the I Corps team (Team Mandoline).

"Specifically the wings were made a lot different than we were used to," said Hodges. "One of them was a bacon wrapped chicken wing, another was a ginger sesame flavored chicken wing. My favorite was the stuffed boneless chicken wing, I had never seen this done before. It was not what we Americans know as boneless but it was a chicken wing with the bones removed and then stuffed, I think that was the best one."

As for the desserts, Hodges really enjoyed the parfait and the cheese cake.

"The other ones were a little too watery to the point that one of them, we had to drink because we didn't have a spoon," explained Hodges. "Though all of the food was good, I choose the Cherry Blossoms of Dewa to win and Team Matsushima as the runner-up."

When the competition was finished the I Corps team won but even though Hodges' choices didn't win, he still enjoyed the experience.

"This whole exercise has been a great experience and it is always good to work with our Japanese counterparts," exclaimed Hodges. "It is great to experience different things and different cultures and getting us to understand our Japanese counterparts better."