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Evening Chow Brings Firerfighters Together

By Sgt. Jerrid M. Dawes

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER, TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (Mar. 13) -- For firefighters aboard the Combat Center, chow time is that special time of the day when they can relax and enjoy one another's company. Here, the long standing tradition of "in-house cooks" is alive and well, and the firefighters take pride in creating culinary delights for all the members of the station.

"Evening chow is the time all of us can get together," said Fire Captain Paul Geissinger. "Throughout the day we are all busy with our various jobs and really don't have time to talk. Most of the firefighters have something they enjoy cooking, and there is some competition to make the best meal."

A monthly roster is posted and lists the names of the cooks for each day, with each firefighter receiving cooking duty on average of twice a month.

Evening meal competition can be tight with feasts such as Ray Pierce's "Killer Meatloaf," Robert Moore's "Outrageous Tacos," Steve Lasiter's "Positively Perfect Pot Roast" and Jay Dimoff's "Kickin' Chicken Tacos" anchoring the kitchen table. Not to be outdone, Geissinger makes enchiladas, Assistant Fire Chief Randy Leazer cooks spinach stuffed pork chops, and Fire Chief Charles Methvin does his BBQ tip roast. Each firefighter spends his own money to purchase the food he will cook.

Recently, Firefighter Dan Stanifer drew chow duty and set about cooking "by popular demand," his "Sante Fe Chicken Casserole" with a few other men helping with the extras.

"We are all pretty much self-taught cooks," Stanifer said. "We just apply what we've learned over the years to make the best meal possible."

The firefighters work on a 24-hours on, 24-hours off rotation, with each crew consisting of eight firefighters and one fire captain. When they're not enjoying their evening meal, the firefighters are kept busy during their 24-hour shift. Preventive maintenance on the trucks and power tools is constantly performed to ensure readiness. The firefighters continually train to keep their skills sharp with mock fires, hazmat training, and search and rescue techniques being just a few of the procedures they cover on a weekly basis.

"We are about 98 percent self-sufficient," Geissinger said. "Everything from fire truck maintenance to ground landscaping is done by the firefighters."

With such a busy schedule, it's comforting to know firefighters can look forward to a good "home cooked" meal at the end of a grueling day.

Marine Corps News story, dated March 13, 1998.

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