KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (August 9, 2012) -- For cooks assigned to the 3d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and many other units across the Army, working in a dining facility was typically not an option, even though it was what they were trained to do.

But with recent cuts to the Army's dining facility budget, Installation Management Command has recommended assigning more military cooks to do exactly what they were trained to do, "cook".

To accommodate these recommendations, the 3d ESC worked with Kandahar Airfield's Special Operations Task Force-South to allow its cooks to work in the DFAC that they could be prepared for what they may face upon returning to Fort Knox.

Fort Knox's 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division recently reintegrated military cooks back into the DFAC, and the 3d ESC's cooks could possibly do the same after their return from Afghanistan in support Operation Enduring Freedom.

"This is a great opportunity for our young Soldiers because originally they wouldn't have had any opportunity to learn and grow within their career field," said Staff Sgt. Wesley McCarty, a food service specialist with the 3d ESC. "We don't work in the DFAC at Knox, or go to the field in manner that would allow for the operation of a mobile kitchen trailer, so this opportunity is great for our young Soldiers."

McCarty, who has served as a cook in the Army for 21 years, said that the time away from the DFAC wouldn't necessarily affect him as much as it would the Soldiers working for him. These Soldiers, Spc. Isaac Montalvo and Spc. Viviana Baker, both food service specialists assigned to the 3d ESC, had no prior experience in their career fields. They both arrived at the 3d ESC fresh from advanced individual training, but are now getting the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge working in the SOTF-S DFAC.

"This has been a good experience for me because I now know what's expected of me in my job," said Montalvo, a native of Guayanilla, Puerto Rico.

Much of the expectations Montalvo speaks of include the early mornings and late nights associated with working in a DFAC. Both Soldiers said the experience of working in a DFAC is much different than what they were used to. Montalvo, who worked the in Joint Sustainment Command -- Afghanistan's mail room when he began the deployment, said the rigors associated with working in a DFAC are much more than what others may think.
He explained that the job requires lots of preparation, time and extended periods of standing. While this is an adjustment from what he's used to, it's all a part of the job.

The adjustment was just as tough for Baker, but she admitted that this experience would help her as she progresses in her career. She said that working in the DFAC thus far has helped her gain a better understanding of the Army's food services processes and procedures. With the skills and knowledge she's gained by working in the DFAC, she feels as if she will be better served to lead others in the future.

"Most of the cooks I met before I deployed said that whenever they deployed, they did everything other than their actual job," said Baker. "So for me to do my job on my first deployment is a big deal."