Assessment team evaluates Fort Cavazos food service options

By Sgt. Maj. Shelia FourmanNovember 6, 2023

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. - As part of the Holistic Health and Fitness program, nutrition is a key component to Army and Soldier readiness.

With the ongoing transformation of food service across all Army installations, food service leaders are developing new ways to offer healthy meals to Soldiers, modernize payment methods, and diversify food options outside of brick and mortar.

This year, several government reports found that Fort Cavazos, Texas, had unstable food service options, causing Soldiers to seek nutrition from other sources.

“III Armored Corps and Fort Cavazos requested an external assessment team [Tiger Team] to conduct a deliberate assessment of food service requirements, Soldier preferences, and relevant trends across Fort Cavazos,” said Sgt. Maj. Kelvin Windham, Army Materiel Command’s logistics (G4) sergeant major.

“This assessment would provide an accurate snapshot on how Fort Cavazos sees themselves, assess food insecurities, explore facility use rates, identify resource constraints, and review personnel manning requirements,” said Windham. The Army acknowledges that we are stressing Culinary Specialist too thin, so we are implementing flexible feeding options that are designing, building, and executing a best in class 21st century food service operation Army-wide to become every Soldiers restaurant of choice for nutrition.”

This month AMC, along with III Armored Corps, Headquarters Department of the Army G4, Army Sustainment Command, Installation Management Command, Joint Culinary Center of Excellence, and Forces Command deployed a small team to evaluate and assess food service options on Fort Cavazos. During the visit, the team conducted 16 site visits and 271 engagements, that included Warrior Restaurants, AAFES food courts, and other food service options to determine food service requirements, Soldier preferences and relevant trends.

“The Army Food Innovation and Transformation team, led by AMC, provided III AC command teams with flexible food service options and how to implement them on their post or installation,” said Windham. “Installations must employ the full spectrum of flexible food service options to increase quality of life and relieve culinary specialists from the robust garrison mission.”

“Utilizing the observation screening options during several white board sessions allowed the group to cross talk to identify the mean to improve the quality of life and the Army Food Program on Fort Cavazos,” said Sgt. Maj. Kresassidy McKinney, III AC chief culinary management sergeant major. “Codifying how we feed the force requires flexibility to get after Soldiers’ preferences. Examples of flexible and scalable feeding options discussed were kiosk expansions, bistros, Warrior Restaurant Centers, and campus style feeding to bridge the gap and fulfill feeding requirements to ensure Fort Cavazos offers Soldiers several options to consume a nutritious meal and increase dining options.”

The team used nine observation screening elements to identify potential food service limitations and options: Informational/strategic communication; food program governance; flexible feeding options; kiosk expansion; full food service contract; centralized hub; campus style feeding; Warrior Restaurant enhancement; and unmanned retail operations.

“Fort Cavazos’ food program is creating a food program strategy to implement the recommendations that the Tiger Team and internal representatives developed during the visit,” said McKinney. “We are working to improve our messaging/communication campaign to ensure Soldiers are well informed regarding available and flexible feeding options on installation. We are identifying additional kiosk locations on installation and working on establishing grab-and-go capability within the DFAC, which provides Soldiers flexible feeding options.”

The Tiger Team provided guidance to command teams on flexible options including food kiosk, food trucks, meal prep, grab and go and the Warrior Restaurant Centers.

“A lot of the engagements with E-4’s and below (found they) were told by their command teams that they could only eat at the Warrior Restaurants in their footprint, which limited their access to food service options,” said Windham. “Leaders didn’t realize that Soldiers could eat in any dining facility opposed to eating only in their unit area.”

Windham stated that when the team conducted engagements with two field feeding companies at Fort Cavazos, they found that company leadership couldn’t train culinary specialists to their mission essential task list requirements because they were consumed with Warrior Restaurant operations.

“By implementing flexible feeding options across Fort Cavazos, it helps relieve the culinary specialists from robust garrison feeding and by promoting time to train, time to enhance their skills through professional military education, and time off,” said Windham. “This will enhance their quality of life and career progression.”

During the out brief with III AC leadership, the assessment team provided nine recommendations, to include extended meal hours to accommodate dining across multiple food service platforms to ensure they have continuous food service operations.

“We recommended that they start doing meal prep, because what we saw was that Generation Z, 18–24-year-olds, want the convenience of picking up meals,” said Windham. “Soldiers could pick up cooked, vacuumed sealed and frozen meals for 7-days and take them with them.”

Additionally, Fort Cavazos has requested to have two civilian-run food contracts to offset culinary specialists being stretched too thin during rotational training and field feeding operations; convert the Iron Horse dining facility to a centralized hub that supports two food trucks’ meal prep operations, and readiness training center for installation support; and add additional kiosks across the installation to increase market saturation and reduce food insecurities.

“We will continue to execute our installation-wide Army Food Program Governance Board to bring all key stake holders in support of the Army Food Program together to address installation-wide food program issues/concerns. These implementations will greatly benefit all diners and expand the current resources available,” said McKinney.