Fort Bragg Tests New Kitchen Uniforms

The culinary specialists cooking up hot meals for soldiers across Fort Bragg will get a new look next spring.

Culinary specialists in the dining facility for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team/18th Field Artillery Brigade volunteered to test new chef uniforms, which have been approved. The new uniforms are in the manufacturing phase and should be fielded Army-wide by spring of 2017.

"It gives us a better appearance," said Staff Sgt. Michael Jackson, a culinary specialist noncommissioned officer for 2nd Brigade Combat Team. "This has more of a professional appeal."

Culinary specialists received two sets of garrison chef uniforms in May 2015. For the next 90 days, they cooked in them and laundered them to see if they could withstand the nature of their jobs and cleaning up stains after long days in the kitchen.

Evaluators from the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence at Fort Lee, Virginia, visited Fort Bragg to survey the soldiers.

There was overwhelming support for the new uniforms, Jackson said.

Jackson said he has worn both uniforms during his 10 years in the Army.

When his soldiers received the new uniforms for testing, he noticed they stayed cleaner. But they're also more comfortable and stylish, he said.

"They love the new uniform," Jackson said of his 20 soldiers. "We'll be excited to turn in the old ones to get the new ones."

The old uniforms — nicknamed "cook whites" — have been in service since the '70s.

Those uniforms were actually medical smocks. That's because sanitation standards were similar for the medical and food workers at the time, and it was cheaper for the Army to produce just one uniform.

The old uniforms were thin and short-sleeved white tops with white pants. The new uniforms are thicker and resemble a white chef jacket with black pants.

Soldiers offered their opinions on the functionality of the new uniform, such as the long sleeves.

Jackson said short sleeves didn't make sense because soldiers would sometimes be in walk-in freezers for long periods to do inventory, or standing over a pan with hot oil while cooking.

They're also easier to clean, he said.

The old uniforms were thin and difficult to clean, especially from common splatters such as tomato sauce and oil.

The chef uniforms are the latest tweak the Army has made to push a sharper image for the soldiers in dining facilities.

About a year ago, the Army renamed 92G soldiers from "cooks" to "culinary specialists."

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Gary Morton, a food adviser for the 82nd Airborne Division, said when he enlisted in the Army he was "just a cook." He said he's thrilled new soldiers can call themselves culinary specialists.

And the new uniforms will advance that image.

"They were outdated. It was time for a new one," Morton said. "I've been in the Army 22 years and to see the change, it's just phenomenal to me. They will have a little more pride on their shoulders."

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