FORT BRAGG, N.C. — The U.S. Army prides itself on holding its Soldiers to a high standard of excellence and professionalism. It expects them to be able to perform with no-notice in a variety of tasks all over the world. For the Soldiers of the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), that kind of professionalism was put to the test when they won the field feeding portion of the 52nd Philip A. Connelly Active Field Competition on March 10, 2020.
The annual competition pits culinary teams from across the Army in multiple categories. This year, an 11 person team from an unlikely organization came out on top in the field feeding category, proving they could work against the odds to feed over 250 Soldiers in a field environment.
The requirements for the Fort Bragg based Soldiers demanded they assemble and prepare field sanitation stations, manage peak levels of hygiene, maintain military discipline and site security, and all while being judged and scrutinized heavily.
The victory also marked a rare opportunity for the troops to bring home a culinary victory for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. This feat hasn't happened in 52 years in the active field category.
"The essence of this competition is to drive excellence in our food service Soldiers," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Raul Lewis, the officer in charge of the winning team. "True excellence and professionalism were the number one priority for us. We succeeded by taking our skills from the garrison to the field environment and winning as a unit."
"We went in saying we were going to win this, and we were going to make history … We did," said Lewis. He also serves as a command food service advisor for 3rd SFG (A). "We showed that U.S. Army Special Operations Command Soldiers are part of an elite organization. We demonstrated that we can deploy, support, and perform in anything that we do regardless of the environment."
Lewis, a Charleston, South Carolina native who has worked in Army culinary food service for over 15 years, said that he credits the team's success to his hardworking Soldiers.
"Today and tomorrow's Soldiers are dependent on the results of good, hardworking culinary teams," said Lewis. "We had to demand a lot from our team, and they met and exceeded our expectations every time."
In addition to the tasks above, teams were evaluated on the training and supervision of their staff, their equipment maintenance, and the rations' storage.
"This was an extremely prideful moment for all of us," said Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Miller, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the winning team. "It was a tremendous opportunity to go out there and show that we have what it takes. Everybody on the team understood the challenges we were up against, and every Soldier rose to the occasion."
The Philip A. Connelly Competition spans across hundreds of units, which then compete at higher commands, culminating with the final portion of the competition at the Department of the Army level.
The Connelly awards originated in 1968 in honor of the President of the International Food Service Executives Association (IFSEA), Phillip A. Connelly, to establish what would become the personification of foodservice excellence for culinary specialists.
"This competition was about showing you care in your profession. If you can show that you care, then the feedback and appreciation you get is always 100 fold," said Miller. "Because the two most important things to Soldiers in a combat environment are their beans and their bullets."