FORT LEE, Va., March 9, 2011 -- Featuring modern classrooms and state-of-the-art cooking and baking labs, a new building extension for the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence here was officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday.

The $14.5-million extension adds more than 45,000 square feet to the joint culinary center, and it's accommodating the Air Force and Navy food service classes that relocated to Fort Lee recently under the directives of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure law. The Navy culinary specialist course was previously located at Great Lakes, Ill., and the Air Force Services course at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

Many of the interior features of the new Joint Culinary Center of Excellence, or JCCoE, extension reflect its unusual multi-service mission. In addition to the standard faculty offices, classrooms and cooking labs, there is a dining facility for Air Force and Navy training, a galley (Navy kitchen), and a wardroom (special mess area for naval commissioned officers). Each of the service schools had a hand in designing the new facility.

"The Joint Culinary Training Directorate identified the items for the joint training labs, and assisted the two services in obtaining all other required equipment in a timely manner to ensure everything was on hand to support our first training class," said Raymond Beu, director of training at the JCCoE. "The Air Force and Navy both provided their input and guidance to ensure that the training facilities and equipment were comparable to what the sailor or airman would find in the operational force. This assists the training effort since it provides a realistic training environment for our students."

When it was determined that the Air Force and Navy would be joining the Army and Marine Corps training here, the organization also underwent an inter-service review, Beau said. "We wanted to see where we could consolidate functions," Beu said. "Throughout that process we found that the Navy could team up with the Marines and the Army on some of the base-level training. The additional labs - three cooking and three baking - facilitate the building of the individual skill set before the student goes into any type of team-building event with his or her own service."

The extension features brand-new equipment that was chosen by the Air Force and Navy to meet their individual needs.

"The Air Force cooks with electric at its duty stations, so their equipment is electric," said Beu. "The Navy chose equipment that could closely replicate what they would find on a ship or submarine. This way, it provides them with a more realistic training environment for the airman or sailor. They train on the equipment here that they are going to encounter out in the operational force."

By adding the Air Force and Navy, the JCCoE now teaches all four of the Department of Defense culinary career fields, said Beu.

"This means the training now impacts the entire operational force," Beu said. "It adds to our capability as we look across all of the services and see where the most innovative ideas are being put into practice. We can take the best efficiencies and instruction from each service and apply them to our training."

Another way the new addition allows for better training in the future is by testing out the new equipment there and "reverse engineering" those updates to the older portion of the building.

"The entire wing has state-of-the-art equipment -- not only in the cooking labs, but also in the classrooms," said Beu. "We're looking at some of the new equipment and processes that were incorporated into the new addition and see how it works out and how the equipment holds out. If they hold up well, the intent is to reverse engineer it into the existing building."

For example, the table stations in the cooking labs are among the most modern available. If they hold up to the student load, then that would be something the JCCoE would get for the existing, older classrooms.

The garrison dining facility is also benefiting from this lessons-learned approach. Funds were obtained at the end of fiscal 2009 to renovate the dining facility at JCCoE to the newer Air Force and Navy design.

"We were able to reverse engineer what was going into the new dining facility into our existing facility." he said. "It has the same flooring, same color scheme and brand-new equipment. The two facilities pretty much mirror each other. We wanted to make the transition seamless, so it wouldn't seem like there were two standards for training."