Soldier, Judges; Philip A. Connelly Awards More Than Just a Competition

Texas Military Department - Camp Bullis, TX

Under the heat of the Central Texas sun, the culinary specialists with the 536th Brigade Support Battalion, chopped salad, grilled potatoes, boiled beans and frosted chocolate lasagna in the tight space inside the Mobile Kitchen Trailer. Outside, Department of the Army and DoD judges stood with their notepads in hand, jotting down notes and exchanging comments. It was Texas’ turn to turn up the heat and represent Region V for a shot at the Philip A. Connelly Award at a national level. “The Texas National Guard is one of the final four at the Department of the Army level competing for the number one culinary team for the National Guard Bureau,” Chef Roman Davis, Connelly Award judge representing the DoD, said. “So it is a tremendous honor and testament to the Soldiers’ skills that they have made it to this level.” Evaluated on everything from site security, field sanitation, hygiene, food safety, proper cooking techniques, site layout and hospitality, the Guardsmen have made their way to the nationals by winning the State and NGB Region V level competitions. For Spc. Maria Foust a culinary food specialist with the 536th BSB this is more than just bragging rights. “Making it this far in the competition means we must be doing something right,” Foust said. “Everything we do is aimed at feeding our company and our Soldiers, so if the quality of our food is good then they are going to feel good when they’re out training.” Citizen-Soldier Faust, a part-time nursing student and full-time mom, prepared for the competition at home. “I practiced making my product, the chocolate lasagna with my family,” Foust said. “I had all the layers right, it looked good and then I had my kids taste it. They loved it! And everyone knows how difficult it is to please teenagers.” Faust and her team of culinary specialists had to please the judges here to beat the other National Guard finalists for the title, but Davis says this is much more than just about picking a winner. “We treat this as a normal field feeding exercise,” Davis said. “Everything is done as it should be done if we weren’t here. This ensures that the culinary specialists are in compliance with regulations and receiving the adequate training to perform in a field environment.” Davis says from these events they are able to identify any deficiencies in the training, equipment or even logistics and make recommendations for change. “At these competitions we see first hand what these Army culinary specialists are dealing with. We are then able to communicate that to the Department of the Army and make better chefs.” Davis added. It’ll be a few weeks until the chefs from the 536th find out how they did, but regardless of the outcome they are proud of their accomplishments so far and will continue to take care of Soldiers, Faust said. “Our main concern is keeping our Soldiers fed,” Foust said. “Regardless of what kind of day they had out in the field, if they come to us and say, ‘that food was awesome,’ then we have done our job. They will go to bed with a belly full of good food.”

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