COMBAT OUTPOST CASTLE, Afghanistan – Whether preparing the ingredients to be used for a meal, preheating ovens or making sure the food doesn’t overcook, feeding 300 people can be a difficult task.
Marine Corps Cpl. Nicholas Fredrick, a food service specialist with Charlie Company, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 6, usually starts his day around 4 a.m. to begin cooking breakfast here. He begins to serve at 7 a.m.
Fredrick, of New Castle, Del., said being the only cook at his combat outpost can be difficult.
“The hardest part is just putting all the food out there and keeping up with all the Marines.” he said.
Fredrick, 26, says his favorite meal to cook is steak and lobster, which he tries to make every Saturday. “We have a grill in the back, and I’ll just get out there and start grilling for the guys,” he said.
He also is licensed to operate 7-ton trucks, the vehicles Marines use to move supplies throughout Afghanistan’s Helmand province. Once a week, he drives as part of a convoy to pick up the supplies he needs to continue to feed his Marines.
Since Fredrick is the only cook in his company, he gets to decide what is on the menu every day. He said he likes to add something extra instead of just cooking them right out of the packages they come in.
“The guys always tell me they like the meatloaf,” he said. “I like to add a little extra cheese to the top of it and bake it in the oven. They always love the steaks, too. I season those myself. I try to make things a little better for everyone out here.”
Even though cooking for so many Marines can be a demanding task, he said, seeing happy Marines makes it worth it.
“I like boosting everyone’s morale,” he said. “That’s [my] main purpose out here -- keeping the Marines nice and full and happy. If they’re happy, then I’m happy, too.”
Fredrick said he takes pride knowing that he is never late to open the doors to the mess tent. He always tries to open up 15 to 20 minutes early, he added, and sometimes closes late to ensure everyone is fed.