CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait--Four Soldiers from the Army Reserve's Indianapolis-based 310th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) returned here recently after providing support to Soldiers at Afghanistan's Bagram Air Base.
Master Sgt. Lloyd Cossey, Staff Sgt. Steve Augusten, Sgt. Nichole Hall and Spc. Patrick H. Watrous spent almost 30 days feeding troops at Bagram’s North Dining Facility in support of withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan..
“We pretty much worked all day, 12-hour shifts,” said Hall, whose regular duties here included running the mailroom and other duties at the 310th ESC’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company.
“We were feeding over 2,000 Soldiers,” she said.
The four “Brickyard” Soldiers deployed here with the 310th ESC to staff the 1st Theater Sustainment Command’s operational command post, and it was through a search of 1st TSC-OCP personnel records that the four were identified as Army culinary specialists, or a 92 Golf military occupational specialty.
“I’ve always been a cook,” Hall said.
The sergeant said in anticipation of U.S. forces ending their mission at Bagram, the contractor civilian employees at the DFAC were sent home and she and the other three were called to supplement the military’s replacement team.
The mission of the cooks ended when the North DFAC closed at Bagram on July 2.
“They were happy that we had come, and they told us that the food improved and tasted good,” she said. “They didn’t care really, as long as they got a hot meal.”
Hall said there was one favorite meal that they served.
“Their favorite meal was the grilled cheese,” she said. “We got a lot of compliments on the grilled cheese and the ham and cheese sandwiches.”
The native of Ashtabula, Ohio said that she deployed to Afghanistan once before with the 1st Engineer Battalion of the 555th Engineer Brigade from September 2012 to May 2013 at Forward Operating Base Shank.
Master Sgt. Lloyd Cossey
Cossey, who is assigned to the 1st TSC-OCP logistics section, or G-4, said he took on the 12-hour shifts and cooked every day.
“It was more than just scrambling eggs. We were doing a lot of cooking, very involved cooking. We were cooking steaks, vegetables, everything you could possibly think of, we’d cook,” he said.
“I don’t know how many people were supposed to be there. I just know it was my calling to be there,” he said.
The Houston-native, who joined the Army in 1982, split almost evenly between the active-duty and reserve component, said that it was his first time to Afghanistan, and he is grateful for the opportunity before he retires after this deployment.
“This is one of the reasons I joined the Army, to serve people,” he said. “That was the main thing, I was very happy, because I was serving people. As a leader, it is not about being a master sergeant, an E-8, trying to direct people to go places. It is about serving and empowering other Soldiers to take your place.”
Spc. Patrick H. Watrous
Watrous, who is assigned to the 1st TSC-OCP’s Knowledge Management section, said he found out that he was deploying to Afghanistan from HHC 1st Sgt. Stephen E. Jones II, the morning he was heading to the range.
“I was on the bus ready to go to the M249 range at Camp Buehring,” he said. “First Sergeant Jones came onto the bus and told me that I would need to pack when I return from the range, because I would be going to Afghanistan.”
The specialist, who grew up in Fishers, Indiana, before moving to Noblesville, Indiana, said he had one question after hearing the news. “My reaction was to ask if Staff Sergeant Augusten and Sergeant Hall would be going too. I was excited to cook with my team again.”
Watrous said there was a big difference between his routine here and at Bagram.
“The biggest difference was keeping a fully-loaded weapon on me at all times, that and the constant work,” he said. “I'd wake up and start going at 0430 and wouldn't stop until 1700 at the earliest, some days I'd work until 1900.”
Through the work, the team came together, he said.
“I learned how to work with what we had,” he said. “The group we were working with hadn't worked together before and it took some time to find people’s strengths and weaknesses.”
Watrous said he was involved in every part of the meal.
“As a team we cooked the meals, prepared the salad, and sandwich bar, and restocked drinks, chips, et cetera,” he said.
“I personally was cooking the breakfast and lunch meats and would start cooking the dinner meats before night shift would take over,” he said. “Joking around with the friends I made, playing music, and having Staff Sergeant Augusten on my shift helped me get through each day.”
Staff Sgt. Steve Augusten
Augusten, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of HHC’s postal section, said that when he arrived, there was little time to get settled.
“I arrived in Afghanistan June 1 at zero-dark-thirty, and I took about a four-hour nap, then started working,” he said. “It was pretty much 24-7, until the day we left.”
The staff sergeant said as operations at Bagram were winding down, they closed the two other DFACs leaving the North DFAC as the only one still serving hot meals until it was closed June 25.
“My specific job was—along with a master sergeant—we did whatever it took to get the meals out,” he said. “I didn’t really cook. I set up the outside line and prepped the food for the cooks.”
The Dayton, Ohio, native said he joined the Army Reserve in 2006, because he wanted to work in military intelligence after serving as a cook in the Marine Corps. Before he had the chance to go to military intelligence school, his unit put him in a culinary specialist billet, so he could deploy with them.
“At that point, I just figured it’s destined for me to be in food service, and I’ll be slinging hash for twenty-plus years—and I accept it,” he said.
“Afghanistan is different,” he said.
“The first thing you notice is the weather--the weather’s 10 times better than here,” he said. “The landscape is breathtaking with the mountains—they’re snowcapped mountains—I mean, that to me was just beautiful.”
The other thing Augusten said he noticed was the multi-cultural, multi-national vibe at Bagram.
“On that little FOB—Bagram airport—you have every different military country, pretty much there,” he said.
“There were airplanes constantly coming and going,” the staff sergeant said. They had just constant controlled detonations, explosions all the time. There were helicopters flying and drones overhead.”
Augusten said the battle rhythm at Bagram was much more intense than at Camp Arifjan.
“You carry your weapon with the magazine in it and it’s a whole different environment.”