CRANE ARMY AMMUNITION ACTIVITY, Ind. (July 24, 2012) -- Drivers need fuel too, and their fuel point is the Mobile Kitchen Trailer (MKT).

Sgt. 1st Class Nathan J. Andrews from Romney, W. Va., a Senior Food Operations Sergeant with the 351st Ordnance Company, a Reserve unit, which for the purpose of this exercise answers to the 497th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, says there are several challenges in running an MKT during Operation Golden Cargo.

"The head-count for starters has been changing daily based on the transportation and ordnance missions," said Andrews.

The MKT provides breakfast and dinner meals. However, incoming and outgoing convoys also means the cooks need to provide early and late meals, even if it is after midnight, to make sure everyone gets a hot meal.

Another challenge is the trip to pick up the food. Every three days, the cooks send a group to Camp Atterbury, Ind., which is two hours away.

"The ration run pretty much takes up six to eight hours a day instead of, typically, we'd drive 15 minutes on a base, and it would get done in about three hours," said the 16-year veteran.

Heat has been one of the biggest challenges during Operation Golden Cargo. In addition to the summer heat, the cooks have to deal with the additional challenge of diesel stoves.

"We rotate our cooks out who are actually cooking and keep an eye on everybody," said Andrews.

Even without the particular challenges that Operation Golden Cargo presents for the cooks, this is a valuable learning experience for the Soldiers who come from five different units to work in this MKT.

"I've been cooking professionally all of my adult life, and this is quite different," said U.S. Army Spc. Holly A. Sutton from Luray, Va., a cook with the 351st Ordnance Company.

Meals come in packages called Unitized Group Rations. Portions for 50 Soldiers come in three boxes. One box is the perishable foods, another box is non-perishable, and the last contains cups, plates, utensils and condiments.

"It's cut out all the leg work out of having to portion things out," said Sutton, who is a former caterer. "Which, if you are in a deployed environment, that helps."

Andrews says cooking in the field and getting up early every day is how you learn to be an Army cook.
"That's where cooks actually get to learn their [Military Occupational Specialty] and shine," said Andrews.

"This is supposed to be what it's like when you are deployed. The main thing is getting them fed," said Sutton.