Before the sun rises on the Bastogne footprint, the Snipes Dining Facility culinary experts of 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), are preparing breakfast for more than 3,000 Soldiers.
May 14, Col. Robert Born, 1st BCT commander, joined them and personally served every one of his Soldiers.
The morning starts early at 4:45 a.m., when the chefs begin what is called cooks mount. The line supervisors make sure every cook’s nails are clipped, their uniform is clean and their hands are washed and sanitized before handling food or cookware in the massive Snipes DFAC kitchen.
Born filed right in with his Soldiers and was inspected thoroughly at 5:30 a.m. and began the day just like the culinary experts on the Bastogne team prior to beginning the work of creating the morning meal.
Soldiers were surprised to see the brigade commander helping cook a meal, especially breakfast, because it is an early start and pacesetter for the duty day. Yet, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Matthew Silver, brigade food technician, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 426th Brigade Support Battalion, was not surprised that Bastogne 6 arrived in support of the team based off of interactions he’s had with Born about sustainment.
“Since taking command Col. Born has always had a special interest in the Bastogne food service program,” Silver said. “He is a huge fan of the Food Network and frequently uses Napoleon Bonaparte’s quote ‘an army marches on its stomach’ at sustainment rehearsals and culinary competitions to show the significance of food service.”
The culinary team and Born were on full display in the kitchen chopping vegetables and preparing eggs for omelets, gaining instructions from shift line supervisors and getting to know one another with personal conversations and laughter. From the outside looking in, you could tell Born is more than a fan of the Food Network – he’s a fan of his Soldiers.
“I have such admiration for our cooks,” he said. “There is such a strong tie between morale, food and our ability to give hot delicious food to our Soldiers that I wanted to experience that. Our cooks have to balance not only all the tasks associated with preparing and serving food, but also their warrior tasks and battle drills. They have a lot to balance, and they do a tremendous job. Working with them this morning gives me a really good appreciation for that.”
Sergeant Crystal Shell, culinary specialist, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 326th Brigade Engineer Battalion, worked with Born during the breakfast food service. Shell assisted the brigade commander and showed him how to properly prepare the first meal of the day safely and promptly. She was pleased her brigade commander came down to her level and took an interest in her job.
“It was an honor and privilege to work with Col. Born,” Shell said. “I got the opportunity to show him the experiences that culinary specialists go through all day to prepare food for our Soldiers.”
Traditionally, the brigade commander is known for serving the Thanksgiving or Christmas meal to Soldiers and Families in the dining facility. It is not every day that a commander comes to serve in the DFAC for a routine meal, so this was a special day for Silver.
“The majority of Army culinarians at times feel that they are forgotten or disconnected by their organizations due to the nature of their job and being isolated for long periods of time in the warrior restaurants, formerly known as dining facilities,” he said. “The fact that Col. Born took time out of his schedule to work with his culinarians, even if just for one morning, shows our Soldiers that food service is a topic that he does not take for granted. This was an event I have only seen one other time in my 16-year career and hope his example is followed by other commanders.”
Born serving hot food to his Soldiers alongside the culinary team in Snipes DFAC, is not something he takes for granted. For the seasoned infantry officer, it was about the personal care for his team and having a great time with the Soldiers he works with on a daily basis.
“I had a blast,” Born said. “It was a lot of fun. I like to cook and I like to eat. There’s an old saying, ‘if you love people, give them good food,’ and I love the Soldiers of this brigade. The ability to give them good food was a true pleasure.”