Joint Team Cooking Up A Feast At Pacific Haven

By Staff Sgt. Ginger Schreitmueller
PACAF Public Affairs

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A group of 60 military chefs have traded in dining halls and galleys for canvas walls and portable stoves.

Air Force and Navy food specialists supporting Joint Task Force Pacific Haven are providing meals for the more than 2,100 Kurdish evacuees living at Andersen South. The task force is a humanitarian assistance operation to receive, shelter, process and provide care and security for Kurdish nationals evacuated from northern Iraq last week.

"We put together four operational kitchens and began serving our first hot meal within 48 hours," said Tech. Sgt. Hector Eide, the field kitchen manager at Andersen South. "It's quite an accomplishment when you consider we had people and supplies coming in from all over to make this happen," said Eide. When not pulling duty at the field kitchen, the sergeant is part of Andersen's 36th Services Squadron.

Culinary specialists from Misawa, Yokota and Kadena Air Bases, Japan; Eielson and Elmendorf Air Force Bases, Alaska; Hickam AFB, Hawaii; and Navy Seabees from Camp Covington, Guam, are pitching in to help Andersen's chefs cook up a feast in the field kitchen.

"There are 14 Seabees pulling kitchen duty with the Air Force," said Mess Management Specialist 1st Class Steve Hendrix, whose unit, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1, is from Gulfport, Miss. The unit was on temporary duty at Camp Covington, about 20 miles south of here, when they diverted to Andersen to help. "Except for the uniforms, you can't tell we've never worked together before; we're one unit getting the job done."

According to the petty officer, the atmosphere around the kitchen tents is positive and upbeat. "Despite the heat and humidity, and the temperature increase from the ovens, everything is running well. The Air Force people have been outstanding. We're not used to this type of field kitchen, so we're learning some new angles from them," said Hendrix.

Though the Air Force and Navy cooks may prepare meals in different style kitchens, their recipes don't vary too dramatically. All the services use approved recipes prepared by the Department of Defense, so they're not concerned over whether the Navy uses more salt or the Air Force adds too much pepper. They are concerned about meeting the cultural and religious restrictions of their Kurdish customers. Since the majority of the evacuees are Muslims, they cannot eat pork or pork products.

The kitchen crew is working closely with JTF and Kurd officials to avoid serving a meal that may offend someone or just not appeal to the evacuees' taste buds. "We found they would rather eat eggs for breakfast than pancakes, waffles or hot cereals. And, hot tea is the preferred drink over coffee," said Eide. "They also said they want simple meals such as chicken and rice instead of something like spaghetti." When preparing the meals, the kitchen crew starts early in the morning and keeps the burners on most of the day.

"We prepare about 2,000 meals for each service. For a chicken and rice meal, it comes out to about 2,000 pounds of chicken. You can't start that dinner at 2 p.m. and expect it to be ready in time for the 3:30 p.m. dinner crowd. It's pretty much an all-day process," he added. As the dinner meal comes to a close, the military chefs begin cleaning up and preparing for the breakfast meal.

"It's non-stop cooking," said Eide. "But, I don't think there is a person working out here who would trade it for anything. The smiles make it all worthwhile."

Sergeant Schreitmueller is deployed to Andersen to cover Air Force support of JTF Pacific Haven.

The Goldpanner, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, dated September 27, 1996.


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Last update: January 1, 1997 at 1130