Story by Spc. Sophia Lopez

FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (June 29, 2010) - In a woodsy back area of Fort Meade, Md., the sound of power generators and the occasional train accompany the smell of chocolate cake and coffee as Army Reserve Soldiers from the 611th Quartermaster Company move quickly inside a tiny mobile kitchen trailer, squeezing between one another or sliding past hot burners to prepare lunch for their own troops.

However, these field cooks are not preparing any ordinary meal. They take extra care in their work as they strive to make a name for themselves in the 43rd Annual Philip A. Connelly food service competition. To get here, the unit had participated in their command level competition, the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, headquartered in Coraopolis, Pa.

Thirteen units remain in the Army Reserve Command level competition, of which the top four will be chosen this August to cook off once more at the Department of the Army level.

"This competition allows the food service staff of each unit to get out and do their job working with field equipment, instead of just the garrison equipment," said Chief Warrant Officer Mark Morrel, the culinary arts advisor for the Army Reserve and an evaluator for this competition.

The 611th Quartermaster Company, of Baltimore, is competing in the Philip A. Connelly competition for the first time. Assisting the 611th are Soldiers from the 818th Quartermaster Company and 326th Quartermaster Company. Aside from not knowing each other very long, one challenge Soldiers face is having to work out in the field. However, it gives them a chance to practice in a different environment and hone other basic Soldier skills.

"I'm really proud of them," said 1st Lt. Sarah Gleason, executive officer, 611th Quartermaster Company. "They've learned a lot of soldiering skills they haven't had a chance to practice in several years." These skills include setting up the campsite and camouflaging the tents and field kitchen. This along with safety and sanitation, and overall food quality are among the categories on which the units are evaluated.

Even though only one unit can claim the award, the impact this competition has on the Army food service has everything to do with improving their skills and working together.

"It's been a growth experience to work with another unit and get things accomplished," said Gleason.

Growth and training are top priorities for all units.

"Whether you win or lose, it's a great training experience," said Staff Sgt. Willis Glass, of Pittsburgh, first cook for the 326th Quartermaster Company, out of New Castle, Pa.

Teamwork is an essential part of everything the Army does and this competition is no exception. Not only did three units come together for this, but so did Soldiers of other specialties, a unique aspect of this competition.

"It's a chance to show off your hard work and work as a team," said Spc. William Randall, a power generator repairer for the 611th Quartermaster Company. During this competition, Randall worked in the sanitation center, keeping the constant flow of dishes and utensils clean and sanitary. "We don't want anyone to get sick for an unnecessary reason."

Back in the kitchen, food service Soldiers cook everything on their menu from scratch. They prepared lasagna, vegetable soup, broccoli, garlic bread, coffee and chocolate cake complete with chocolate icing.

For the competition and field training exercise, the company set up shop in the woods of Fort Meade. Soldiers pull security at the entrance of the only road access wearing battle rattle and carrying their rifles, even requiring a challenge and password from anyone entering the area. Soldiers spent the week before competition setting up the tents and field kitchen. Overall, they seem to enjoy the experience.

"The Soldiers are real excited to actually be practicing their field craft," said Capt. William Whiteman III, 611th Quartermaster Company Commander. "And the rest of the unit can see what cooks can provide in a field environment."

Whiteman said these surroundings help portray a similar environment to Afghanistan, complete with other Soldiers dressing as local nationals to prepare the unit on how to interact with the populace if they are deployed.