SCHAUMBURG, Ill. - The 2011 U.S. Army Philip A. Connelly Award for Excellence in Food Service program recognized the hard work and dedication dining facility staff exhibited over the past year. Entrants competed and were judged in one of five categories to include small and large garrison dining facilities, active Army, U.S. Army Reserve and Army National Guard field kitchens.

The goal of the program is to encourage excellence in preparing and serving food to Soldiers, while providing incentives for improved food service operations through unit recognition. The competition is a year-long event and focuses on the overall operation and effectiveness of Army facilities throughout the world.

"The Philip A. Connelly program encourages and recognizes deserving units for superb performance," Lt. Col. Rossie Johnson, director, Joint Culinary Center of Excellence, U.S. Army Quartermaster School, said. "It also awards individuals for stellar management practices. This honors the traditions of the awards program."

JCCoE and International Food Service Executives Association's evaluators travelled the globe to obtain first-hand knowledge of how Army food service personnel perform their jobs. Dining facilities were graded in many areas including sanitation, menus, record keeping and cooking procedures.

As dining facilities prepare and train for participation in the competition, Soldiers and civilians hone their skills. This improves the operation and service provided to the diners in a garrison and tactical environment. For units participating in the field category, the training and focus is not only on the field food service operation but on the unit as a whole.

"I have had the great opportunity to evaluate three Connelly competitions. This year was the best for me because the scoring was closer than ever before," evaluator Sgt. Maj. Michael Dixon, Management Assistance Division sergeant major, JCCoE, said. "This is an indicator that food service standards are being raised world-wide."

Representatives from the winning teams came from around the world to be honored during a formal joint service ceremony held April 3, in the Chicago area.

"This journey has been a fantastic one," Col. Gwen Bingham, commandant, Quartermaster School, said during the awards presentation. "The warriors you see standing before you are the hallmark of what it is all about in our military."

In addition to team recognition, many individual awards were also presented, including the coveted Connelly ring for winning dining facility managers. Wearing the ring is a constant reminder of the professional level of leadership the holder maintains.

"This Connelly ring gives the junior Soldiers something to shoot for," Peter Motrynczuk, representative for Research and Development Associates and ring presenter, said. "The Connelly ring is sort of like the Super Bowl ring of the culinary world."

The event was also about more than just being recognized, professional development was a highlight for participants.

During the week, Connelly attendees were provided opportunities to participate in professional culinary training at Robert Morris University Illinois, tour local landmarks, compete in an Iron Chef-style Bistro Challenge and attend various food preparation workshops.

Another highlight was the IFSEA Trade Show, which provided vendors the opportunity to demonstrate some of the products attendees may use in their professional capacity. This was exciting for some of the attendees because it opened them up to new ideas and products.

"I sampled a chicken lollipop. It was a chicken leg they stripped all the fat off of, and it was very good," 1st Sgt. Angel Rutledge, 126th Transportation Company, Fort Bragg, N.C., said. "I like the healthy nature of the food, and I think a lot of these foods would help keep the morale of the Soldiers up."

The Connelly awards program and conference is held jointly with the Navy and Military Sealift Command programs. The program is managed by the Quartermaster School's JCCoE and co-sponsored by IFSEA and the Department of the Army G4.

This year's winners were:
Small Garrison Winner - Camp Zama, U.S. Army Garrison, Japan
Small Garrison Runner-up - Pegasus Inn Dining Facility, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

Large Garrison Winner - Freedom Inn Dining Facility, U. S. Army Garrison, Fort Meade, Md.
Large Garrison Runner-up - Patton's Own Dining Facility, Area Support Group-Qatar, Camp As-Sayliyah, Qatar

Active Army Field Kitchen Winner - 126th Transportation Co., 330th Transportation Bn., Fort Bragg, N.C. Active Army Field Kitchen Runner-up - 55th Military Police Co., 94th Military Police Bn., Camp Stanley, Korea

U.S. Army Reserve Winner - 824th QM Co., 362nd QM Bn., Fort Bragg, N.C. U.S. Army Reserve Runner-up - 1011th QM Co., 329th Combat Sustainment Support Bn., Independence, Kan.

U.S. Army National Guard Winner - Support Co., 216th Engineer Bn., Cincinnati, Ohio
U.S. Army National Guard Runner-up - Forward Support Co., 130th Engineer Bn., Vega Baja, Puerto Rico.