By JOC Denny Banister
During his Annual Training 'down under,' MSC Donald Van Borsch ate 51 meals -- but he served 45,849 others. Chief Van Borsch reported for 17 days of active duty to a military facility just outside the city of Rockhampton to feed troops supporting Tandem Thrust '97, a U.S. and Australian training exercise held in the Shoalwater Bay area of Queensland, Australia.
"This was the biggest exercise I've participated in as a Naval Reserve," Van Borsch said. "All together, there were about 27,000 active duty and reserves from all branches of American and Australian services participating -- I'm just glad I only had to serve meals to 900 of them," he said.
Attached to Cargo Handling Battalion Four, Charleston, S.C., Chief Van Borsch drills at NAVRESCEN, COLUMBIA, S.C., a long way from Rockhampton. "About 32 hours of planes and airports," Van Borsch said, " but the experience was sure worth it. I not only worked with my active duty counterparts and members of other branches of service, but also with the 'Aussies' attached to Tandem Thrust."
Chief Van Borsch supervised the mess tents. "We had three large tents, each housing 14 tables and 28 three-person benches on wood-pallet floors," he said. "We could feed up to 84 persons in each tent continuously for an hour-and-a-half, three times daily." Van Borsch said the biggest challenge to the job was ensuring cleanliness.
"The temperature was in the 90's every day, with some days in three digits, and the humidity was always high and it frequently rained," Van Borsch said. "The mess tents were totally open at both ends to make them bearable, but that also made them easily accessible for flies." But the insects never seemed to be a major problem for those eating.
"We don't use any insecticides in the tents where the troops eat, so the best method of control was absolute cleanliness," Van Borsch said. "We cleaned the tables and benches with a chlorine bleach and water solution before and after every meal, and then we hosed everything down each evening.
"I worked about 14 hours a day, but had a tremendous crew to supervise," Van Borsch said, "and the 'Aussies' were very hard workers and extremely friendly. We really meshed together as a team and enjoyed sharing stories and describing what it's like to live in our respective countries. I had a real 'bonza' down under -- that's Aussie for saying I had a great time in Australia."
Operation Tandem Thrust news release, dated March 9, 1997.
(Chief Journalist Denny Banister is attached to Naval Reserve Office of Information Detachment 518, St. Louis, Mo.)
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