As the May 7 sun rose in the bivouac area on Hunter Army Airfield, Sgt. 1st Class Mary Pettiford and nearly 20 other Army Reserve Soldiers from the 429th Multifunctional Medical Battalion (MMB) were making final preparations for their upcoming mission, to complete in the 44th Annual Philip Connelly Awards Program for Excellence in Army Food Service.

The Connelly competition was established to recognize Army units that provide excellent food and service in a field environment.

"These men and women of the 429th have worked tirelessly without complaints," said Pettiford, 429th food service NCOIC. "I have participated in this competition before, but this is the first for this unit. I have the utmost trust and confidence in the training of our Soldiers. We will represent our command well."

The 429th MMB is a subordinate unit of the 5th Medical Brigade which reports directly to the 3rd Medical Deployment Support Command (MDSC) at Fort Gillem. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Sharion Washington, food service advisor, 3rd MDSC, spearheaded and mentored the event.

"The Connelly competition raises the bar and produces improvements in the quality of food and service, and improves the Soldier's overall dining experience in the field. When Soldiers are provided a good, nutrient, freshly prepared meal, it enhances moral and helps them focus on accomplishing their missions," she said.

Brig. Gen. Ronald Dziedzicki, deputy commander for the 3rd MDSC praised the event. "This event allows our Soldiers the opportunity to train in a replicated theater-level environment, away from home with only the service provided resources. It instills pride and accomplishment in our food service workers as they provide high quality meals to our Soldiers. So while these Soldiers are competing and having fun, they are also becoming more mission-capable."