By Spc. Sharla Lewis, 3rd AAB PAO, 1st Cav. Div. June 7, 2011
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq - The smell of bacon filled the air as Pfc. Malachi Morris pulled a pan of sizzling meat out of the oven. Nearby, Spc. Willie Jones rinsed a bowl of fresh fruit and two Soldiers on kitchen patrol wiped tables and stocked drinks.
In the background, music played over a stereo and the cooks tapped their feet or bobbed their heads in time with the beat.
Sgt. Jose Otero directed a Soldier to write the morning's menu on a white board to prop near the door.
"Don't forget the pancake sausages," he said, referring to the ever popular menu item, blueberry pancakes and sausage on a stick. "They love that one."
When the meal was ready, Soldiers filed through the line, filling their plates with eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy, the coveted meat and pancake treat and fruit. Freshly brewed coffee flowed through the dining room as people chatted and laughed among themselves.
The dining facility of the Eastern Barracks, in Muthanna province serves the Soldiers of A Battery, Task Force 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division and its stability transition team as well as the Muthanna Provincial Reconstruction Team. Many that have visited the base consider the kitchen the best in the brigade's area of responsibility.
The cooks said they like to add a variety of ingredients to the food to keep the flavors fresh and new. For example, Morris drizzled honey on the biscuits before putting them in the oven.
"I'd have to say I love the creativity most," said Jones, who is a native of Austin, Texas. "I like to add a taste of home, you know, a taste of something familiar."
Otero said he and his crew, all attached to the battery from G Forward Support Company, cook three hot meals a day, starting at 5:30 a.m. and never serve the same meal twice in a week. By adding music and a relaxed atmosphere, he said, the team enjoys their work, which reflects on the quality of the food.
"This reminds me of the Army that I was in 15 years ago," said Chief Warrant Officer Jeff Lightsey, the commander of the 36th Infantry Division Band, who was visiting for a special event in a nearby town. "It's nice. This is a relaxing atmosphere where you can hang out and enjoy yourself."
Morris, from Athens, Alabama, took his place behind the serving line while Jones kept busy tidying and cleaning. As the dining room continued to fill, Jones took up serving so Morris could sit down and eat before starting on the dishes. Rotating jobs and covering for people is commonplace in the kitchen, where tasks overlap.
"I like this because everyone has a job to do and we're all working together," Morris said.
As the meal started to wind down and the dining room slowly emptied, the cooks began the task of clean-up. Morris broke into a sudden dance move to the beat of the music as he rinsed a bowl.
Otero, who is a native of Matagalpa, Nicaragua, said his team was the best he'd ever seen.
"I know all the cooks in 3rd Brigade and they're all outstanding, but I think what makes my guys shine a little brighter is that they're having fun," he said.