NCNG: 630th CSSB, A Source of Energy

382nd Public Affairs Detachment - Fort Irwin, CA

At 5:30 p.m. most are making their way home from their jobs, but for soldiers assigned to the 630th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, this is the time for soldiers to form a line, grab plates and filter through the “chow” line of the Salt and Pepper Café at the Logistics Support Area (LSA) Forward Operating Base Santa Fe, Fort Irwin, California during their month-long training rotation at the National Training Center (NTC). The 630th CSSB’s mission is to provide their warfighter counterparts, the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division with resources such as water, food, equipment and mechanical parts by conducting logistics operations. During this simulated training, logistics operations run around the around the clock, but just as a vehicle needs fuel, soldiers need physical and spiritual fuel operating in over 100-degree whether wearing gear weighing over 30 pounds. “Being a cook is an experience, said Sgt. Michael Black, a culinary specialist assigned to the 1450th Transportation Company. You are up at oh dark thirty, and you go to bed at oh dark thirty. I try to keep a smile on my face to make another person smile. That is something you can get for free. I think we make the morale real high on our shift, because when you come through the line and you have a frown on your face, by the time you get through that line you going to have a smile on your face.” There are over 400 soldiers from different National Guard and Reserve units from across the U.S. that occupy and train at LSA Santa Fe. Not only do these chefs cook and serve food to troops, but the two nine-man teams are responsible for setting up and operating in the two Mobile Kitchen Trailers (Salt and Pepper Café), used to serve over 500 meals per day. These teams prep food three hours prior to serving food and utilize Modern Burner Units to cook with. “The one thing I like about cooks is the people you work with,” said Tu Bui, a culinary specialist assigned to the 198th Expeditionary Signal Battalion. “Were like a family. We help each other out and we are a team. It’s not like any other MOS (military occupational specialty) where one person can do it. Everybody has to put in effort and work.” “How are you doing today?” can be heard before you walk into the café coming from the crew interacting with the soldiers in the morning and evening. ‘There goes smiley’ is a nickname given to Pfc. Kiana Libson, a culinary specialist assigned to the 1450th Transportation Company, who was awarded a coin of excellence by Col. Bernard Williford Jr. the 113th Sustainment Brigade commander, for her outstanding performance during the NTC rotation. She and the other crewmembers are always finding ways to keep a joking and light atmosphere. “I have always wanted to be in the military all my life, said Libson. “I love cooking. I try to keep everyone happy. You can’t be out here being grumpy, because none of the jobs would get done.” The cooks use food and laughter to feed the bodies of over 400 soldiers, while Capt. (CH) Christy Marshall, the chaplain assigned to the 630th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, uses her giving and upbeat personality to feed the spirit of soldiers. “I got into the military because of 9/11,” said Marshall. “Not only that, but I had two grandparents that were FBI agents. One worked in the offices in Washington D.C. and the other one (her grandfather) was an agent. Just hearing history, serving my country and wearing the uniform that stands for freedom, I just really wanted to take up that calling.” Chaplains go through a 90-day Chaplain Basic Officer Leadership Course, and then spend three to five years completing a master’s degree in divinity before being ordained as an active chaplain. Marshall said she started this career path after a 45-minute conversation with her professor (retired Army) in college after noticing she wanted to serve as more than a youth pastor. “I want to go serve my soldiers, but I don’t know how I can do that,” said Marshall to her professor at the time. Now six years later she is serving soldiers and permanent staff from across the U.S. as well as North Carolina during the NTC rotation as the advocate of compassion. “I make sure that the soldiers have what they need in order to drive forward and complete the mission and that the companies are informed, if a soldier has an issue,” said Marshall. “Being here with you guys (the soldiers), building those relationships, being relational with my soldiers is the best. Anything to lift up their spirits.” She explained that on Father’s Day while at the NTC soldiers watched the NBA finals in the chaplain center. “Seeing them able to relax for a few minutes and check out and watch something that they love to do, that brought me the greatest joy,” said Marshall. During the NTC rotation, even though these critical teams make up just a small portion of the workforce, they and the rest of the battalion are evaluated by Observer Coach Trainers who advise them on how to enhance their performance and preparedness while under combat situations. This also gives soldiers the opportunity to perform their jobs and duties in a real-life training atmosphere. “The OCTs provide a second set of eyes,” said Capt. Richard Bragg, a Tactical Operations Center observer coach trainer assigned to the 1st Battalion, 357th Brigade Support Battalion. “A lot of time we don’t see our own faults, so its always nice to have a second set of eyes to come in and look at your unit, provide some honest feedback and look for places you can improve and look for places that you want to sustain.” “I just want to say thank you to the soldiers for eating the food!” said Bui. NTC is a training facility designed to simulate real-life combat scenarios testing warriors’ readiness utilizing their military occupational specialty in a high-up-tempo environment. “If you join the military its not going to be all daises and roses, but you can find your strength in other people and don’t give up that hope,” said Marshall. “There is a reason you joined in the first place whether that is finding a family in the process or just being able to support yourself, know that there is a greater cause going on there and that is the cause of freedom.”

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