COMBAT OUTPOST CLEARY, Iraq (Army News Service, July 24, 2007) - It has been said that an Army runs on its stomach, and most Soldiers would agree.
Soldiers from the 15th Infantry Regiment's 1st Battalion here rely on a five-member team to supply them with the culinary fuel they need to carry out their missions.
A typical day for the Soldier chefs starts at 4 a.m.
"Half of cooking is presentation," said Pfc. Emril Getscher. "We try to make everything we do look good as well as taste good."
After breakfast is served and the area is cleaned, the food-service team usually has a few hours before repeating the process for dinner. Their work finally ends around 9 p.m.
The team receives rations, supplies and supplements every few days from the 203rd Brigade Support Battalion's Company F. Each meal comes with a menu and instructions.
Food sanitation is a large part of a cook's job, and harsh conditions in Iraq - like dust - can make the job even harder, according to Staff Sgt. Russell Slouffman, senior NCO in charge of food service at COP Cleary. The conditions also make transporting and storing food difficult.
"One of the biggest problems is not getting the food and supplies we ask for… it's the conditions," said Staff Sgt. Slouffman. Ice cream, for example, is one of Soldiers' biggest requests when the temperatures reach 120 degrees.
"But it would have to be transported on dry ice or in freezers. We just don't have those capabilities," he said.
Of the meals they do receive and prepare at the outpost, Staff Sgt. Slouffman and Pfc. Getscher agree that steaks, hamburgers and hot dogs are Soldiers' favorites.
"When we cook hamburgers and hot dogs, everyone feels like they are at home," Pfc. Getscher said. "We have the grill going, and we bring out chili and chips and it kind of brings us all back to the states."
Despite the long days and challenges, the food service specialists say they love their work.
"And when people say thank you," Pfc. Getscher said, "it makes it all worth it."
"We are the No. 1 morale booster out here. When Soldiers get excited to eat something we cooked, I get excited," added Staff Sgt. Slouffman. "It's all about seeing the smiles on their faces when they come to chow."