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II Marine Expeditionary Force

Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, NC
Food service Marines offer coalition forces taste of home

By Katherine Keleher | | August 19, 2011

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Lance Cpl. Kimberly Burkett, a food service Marine with Task Force Belleau Wood, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), and a native of Queens, N.Y., holds onto her two-way radio she uses to communicate with her fellow food service Marines at Dining Facility 5 aboard Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province, August 14. Burkett and the other four food service Marines who work at DFAC 5 feed an average of 4,000 coalition troops per meal.

Lance Cpl. Kimberly Burkett, a food service Marine with Task Force Belleau Wood, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), and a native of Queens, N.Y., holds onto her two-way radio she uses to communicate with her fellow food service Marines at Dining Facility 5 aboard Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province, August 14. Burkett and the other four food service Marines who work at DFAC 5 feed an average of 4,000 coalition troops per meal. (Photo by Cpl. Katherine Keleher)


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Senior Master Sgt. Jeff Kernhodle, the detachment super intendant with Prime Beef Squadron 777, and a native of Indianapolis, eats dinner at Dining Facility 5 aboard Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province, August 14. DFAC 5, along with the other dining facilities aboard the base, prepares special meals, such as steak and lobster, every Sunday for coalition troops.

Senior Master Sgt. Jeff Kernhodle, the detachment super intendant with Prime Beef Squadron 777, and a native of Indianapolis, eats dinner at Dining Facility 5 aboard Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province, August 14. DFAC 5, along with the other dining facilities aboard the base, prepares special meals, such as steak and lobster, every Sunday for coalition troops. (Photo by Cpl. Katherine Keleher)


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Lance Cpl. Kimberly Burkett, a food service Marine with Task Force Belleau Wood, and a native of Queens, N.Y., stands by to offer assistance to coalition troops eating at Dining Facility 5, aboard Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province, August 6. Burkett and the four other Marines who work at DFAC 5 work around the clock to feed an average of 4,000 troops per meal.

Lance Cpl. Kimberly Burkett, a food service Marine with Task Force Belleau Wood, and a native of Queens, N.Y., stands by to offer assistance to coalition troops eating at Dining Facility 5, aboard Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province, August 6. Burkett and the four other Marines who work at DFAC 5 work around the clock to feed an average of 4,000 troops per meal. (Photo by Cpl. Katherine Keleher)


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All food served at the mess facilities in Afghanistan follow the same procedures and recipes as food served in the United States. This is due to the Armed Forces Recipe Card. The Marines and contractors at Dining Facility 5 pride themselves on doing an exceptional job at food service, and work long, grueling hours to provide their services to nearly 4,000 people per meal.

All food served at the mess facilities in Afghanistan follow the same procedures and recipes as food served in the United States. This is due to the Armed Forces Recipe Card. The Marines and contractors at Dining Facility 5 pride themselves on doing an exceptional job at food service, and work long, grueling hours to provide their services to nearly 4,000 people per meal. (Photo by Cpl. Katherine Keleher)


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8/19/2011 -- CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — Luxuries in the desert of Helmand province are hard to come by, but at Camp Leatherneck coalition service members are the benefactors of one of them: hot meals.

Whether supervising a mess hall kitchen or heating up pre-made meals in more remote areas of the province, food service Marines work relentless hours to make sure coalition troops have the fuel to fight.

“If there weren’t food service Marines then nobody would be eating,” said Sgt. Maria Marques, the correspondence operations representative at Dining Facility 2 at Camp Leatherneck, and a native of South River, N.J. “If they’re not eating, they have no energy to go outside the wire and carry out the mission. How would we be out there doing what we have to do in Afghanistan if these guys weren’t eating?”

The food service Marines are in charge of making sure dining facility meals are served at the correct temperature, chow halls are clean and food is cooked in accordance with armed forces recipe cards.

They are also responsible for replenishing everything edible throughout the day. This can be quite the chore, since the chow halls at Camp Leatherneck are open 24/7. The chow halls serve an average 4,000 meals, adding up to more than 350,000 meals a month.

The food service Marines also work to provide a diverse menu at dining facilities, including curry, Italian and stir fry. It is a simple way to keep things different and keep smiles on troops faces, explained Staff Sgt. John Tuliper, the assistant mess chief with Task Force Belleau Wood, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), and a native of Proctor, Vt.

On top of making sure troops are fed, the culinary specialists are also expected to be able to take their cooking capabilities outside the camp at a moment’s notice.

“At the field mess if we needed to pick up and go feed Marines outside the wire we could grab all our equipment, load it on trucks and go out there,” said Staff Sgt. Justin Talbot, the field mess chief for Marine Wing Support Squadron 272, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd.), and a native of Paw Paw, Mich.

Away from the relative comfort of Camp Leatherneck and other large coalition bases, food service Marines with field mess units spend the majority of their time at small patrol and forward operating bases, using culinary field equipment to prepare three meals a day, Talbot explained.

These Marines, usually in groups of less than five, must set up their equipment of pots, pans and heaters to prepare field ration meals, which are basically super-sized meals ready to eEat. They are also in charge of ensuring MREs are available for when operations make cooked meals unfeasible.

The Marines providing these necessities are not in it for the glory, Talbot said.

“I joined food service because I love to cook,” he explained. “It’s a good feeling knowing that you’re in charge of feeding your Marines. I really like the job and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

“When [Marines] come in from the long [convoys], I think it’s awesome that we can provide a little piece of home,” Tuliper observed. “That’s the greatest thing about food service…I get to provide a piece of home and a smile on somebody’s face.”


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