Marines Take Food Service into the Field


CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- There’s nothing glamorous about it.

While servicemembers rest on Forward Operating Base Shir Ghazi, Afghanistan, three Marines toil into the evening to prepare the next day’s rations – a thankless job.

The three cooks at Shir Ghazi are part of a group of 19 food service specialists with Combat Logistics Regiment 2, Regional Command (Southwest), who support operational units throughout Helmand province.

“We knew coming out here it was going to be all day every day,” said Gunnery Sgt. Morris Mayfield, a New Orleans native and facilities and mess chief for CLR-2. “Despite having limited resources, they come up with pretty creative menus to try and offer a different variety to enhance what they have.”

The isolated nature of bases in the province forced the food-service crews to operate self-sufficiently. Teams of two or three Marines forecast their resource requirements, plan out every meal, order supplies, cook, serve and repeat.

They endure this daily marathon in small field kitchens across the province.

“At a minimum you’re looking at about 18-hour days,” said Mayfield. “Our Marines have actually taken it up another notch. They’re actually running operations. CLR-2 came out as a support unit, but they have taken over at each [base].”

The teams generally consist of a noncommissioned officer and an enlisted Marine who must adapt to whatever they’re given. They also must maintain their own equipment and tackle services normally handled by a larger staff.

There are no days off or meals missed.

“There’s no two ways about it,” said Mayfield. “In 30 or 40 minutes, somebody will come through that door, and they want to eat.”

Their work often goes unnoticed, but the food service specialists perform an essential mission for Marine units in the field. They meet the nutritional requirements for servicemembers conducting operations throughout the province and contribute to morale by providing a diversified diet, noted Mayfield.

Adventurous crews have expanded their menus to include the occasional plate of lobster, shrimp scampi and even ice cream. They studied their patrons and adapted menus to meet their interests.

“We’re doing things outside the normal state of what we are tasked to do,” added Mayfield. “It’s not just the food service part. It’s what I have always preached to them.”

Meal times allow servicemembers to come together. It is a moment to sit down, unwind and bond, said Mayfield.

“You can’t come out here and perform your job if you don’t have the proper nutrition, and sometimes a hot meal will push you a little further,” said Mayfield. “Just the simple fact that instead of opening a carton they can come in and feel like a normal, everyday person and sit down to a balanced meal is huge.”

They’re work allows units to function away from modern comforts for extended periods of time. It also looks out for the welfare of every Marine in the field.

“I don’t believe there is a [specialty] out there that can boast they do this day in and day out, 365 days a year, seven days a week, three times a day for however many people come through that door,” said Mayfield. “It’s a testament to the Marines.”

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