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Officials: Bragg Dining Facilities Should be OK as Army Makes Cuts

The more than 3 million diners who eat at Fort Bragg's dining facilities should be relieved when the Army announces its plans to close at least 14 dining facilities and shrink 45 others in efforts to cut costs and redirect funding.

Officials are looking to close garrison dining facilities as the first way to drive down costs, according to an executive order by the logistics office of Army headquarters. The move is designed to redirect money to align with war-fighting needs.

Fort Bragg officials, however, said they believe the post won't be affected, and have already taken steps to make their facilities more appealing.

"We're sitting in a good place right now," said James Ramey, food program manager at Fort Bragg's Logistics Readiness Center.

Last summer, Lt. Gen. Gustave F. Perna, deputy chief of staff G-4, began reviewing all installation logistics and services within Army headquarters. Garrison dining operations became the first target to cut costs, according to the executive order.

The executive order is ongoing and could take years to complete, according to the logistics office.

The executive order outlined the need to close 14 dining facilities, shrink the floor space of 45 dining facilities and transition smaller facilities like unit- or brigade-centric to larger dining facilities like division- or installation-centric.

The executive order indicates that full-service contracts will be maintained in Fort Bragg-associated Key West, Camp Mackall and the U.S. Army Special Warfare Center and School. All other locations will be run by Army cooks, according to the executive order.

Food service officials should be looking for ways to expand food service outside of a traditional dining facility, such as mobile sites and kiosks, according to the executive order. The dining facilities should be conducting surveys to identify the locations closest to where soldiers live, work and train to place mobile and temporary food service sites.

The dining facilities should develop and implement Department of the Army enterprise menus and recipes that satisfy soldiers' preferences, while supporting the soldiers as athletes to help improve their physical and cognitive performance, according to the executive order.

More than 3.4 million people ate at Fort Bragg's dining facilities last year, Ramey said.

There are 16 dining facilities sprawled across post, including facilities at 3rd Special Forces Group and Womack Army Medical Center . The dining facilities must operate at 65 percent, but Fort Bragg's average usage rate for all of its facilities hangs around the low 80s, Ramey said.

Ramey said Fort Bragg has taken a proactive approach to reshaping its dining facilities. He said several of the changes suggested in the Army's executive order have already been addressed.

The dining facility for the inactivated 4th Brigade Combat Team has closed, he said. Others have revamped menus and found convenient ways for soldiers to pick up food from the dining facility.

"We're ahead of anything," Ramey said. "We always have to improve. If we don't change and evolve, the customer might go away. We have to offer them what they want, when they want it. We make a conscience effort to improve."

Among changes happening at Fort Bragg, the 2nd Brigade and 18th Field Artillery Brigade dining facility revamped its healthy menu to attract soldiers.

Cooks at that facility reviewed their menus looking for simple places to tweak. They cut out sodium, focused on all-natural ingredients and shifted from frozen and canned foods to fresh choices.

The dining facility, which serves about 600 people per meal three times a day, said the number of people choosing the healthy bar increased from 50 to 150 within its first month.

And earlier this month, cooks at the 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade opened Fort Bragg's first drive-thru window.

The drive-thru menu is designed to be faster, so it's grab-and-go type food, such as sandwiches, wraps and hamburgers. It was a simple change, but officials said soldiers had been asking for the window, and a line of cars backed around the building on its opening day.

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