Division staff serves meals during warfighter exercises

By Staff Sgt. Moses Howard IIMarch 21, 2024

Bolesławiec, Poland—Soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division started each meal service with a cheerful greeting from U.S. Army Capt. Sonia Ortiz, commander of Headquarters and Support Company, 3rd Infantry Division, as she sanitized their hands before collecting food.

Headquarters and Support Company and Signal Intelligence Support Company of 3rd ID were tasked with providing three hot meals each day quickly and conveniently for serving participating members in Austere Challenge 24 at Forward Operating Site Boleslawiec, Poland, Feb. 29 - March 13, 2024.

“During AC 24, there was a need to conserve time for the division staff as they went through the exercise, which was passed down through Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion to resolve,” said Ortiz. “What came from that was the field feeding operations being conducted by both HSC and SIS companies.”

Austere Challenge 24 officially kicked off March 4, designed to implement the staff planning process, practice establishing command posts, and exercise distributive command in a real-world, large-scale combat operation.

Two separate feeding locations were set up for exercise participants to facilitate expedited feeding operations, which proved effective. It alleviated the need for soldiers to walk back and forth from the dining facility, allowing them to return to their duties quickly. Each soldier was limited to one protein and one starch to ensure that everyone was adequately fed. The staff supplemented each hot meal with fruits, snacks, and assorted soft drinks to help with morale and portion control.

“I think everything’s going smoothly out here and better than anticipated,” said U.S. Army Spc. Anthony Botto, an armorer assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division. “We’re cutting down the time to pick up and set up food and getting a good number of people out here eating it, so I think it’s a great success.”

Senior leadership started each day at 0430 and arrived at the dining facility by 0530 to collect breakfast from the dining facility, according to Cpt. Ortiz. Several soldiers would come to help load the trucks and get the food on the way to each location by 0620.

Leaders selected from SIS Co. who worked in the Support Area Command Post had a similar schedule in a separate area at the installation’s Rear Command Post.

“The team has met at the dining facility every day since last week around 0625 to get chow, head to the SACP, and be set up by 0700,” said U.S. Army Capt. Monika Agbonkhese, commander of SIS Co..

A third set of soldiers assigned to 3rd ID helped cook each meal at the dining facility, which was then placed into containers. These containers were then collected and delivered to different feeding sites throughout the installation and served to the soldiers.

“It’s very efficient and effective for 24-hour operations in between missions and everything because it’s right there near the soldiers,” said Cpl. Dionna Smith, a help desk technician assigned to SIS Company.

Despite the challenges the soldiers and the division staff have faced, the food-feeding operations have become a viable asset. The makeshift dining station added convenience during AC 24. Over the span of two weeks, approximately 15,000 meals were served to soldiers across both companies on the installation.