Feeding the Force Together
5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment - Pohang, South Korea
The dining facility is a critical element in supporting troops so that they can carry out their missions here during exercise Operation Pacific Reach ‘17. It comes as no surprise that service members from multiple units and branches worked together to support exOPR17. The 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command oversaw the main DFAC on the 1st Republic of Korea Marine camp. The U.S. Navy provided meals at Pier 9 and the 2nd Infantry Division maintained a combined DFAC with ROK soldiers at the Area Distribution Center. DFAC personnel consisted of soldiers from across the peninsula to include the 19th ESC, 1st ID, 2nd ID and 8th Army personnel as well as the North Carolina Army National Guard. In order to provide a hot meal to the soldiers, DFAC personnel are given different tasks. There are the outside line cooks and the main line cooks who are responsible for preparing the various food items found on the serving line. Outside line cooks prepare pastries, salads and drinks while the main line cooks ready entrees: starch, vegetables and meat. Additionally, U.S. soldiers and Korean Augmentations to the U.S. Army worked as kitchen patrol. Their responsibility was to assist in washing dishes, wiping down tables and ensuring the DFAC is in a clean state at all times. Due to the scale of the exercise, preparing a hot meal for all of the soldiers is no easy task. DFAC personnel start cooking meals three hours before the facility is open for service. Meal items are continuously prepared through dining hours to ensure every soldier has the opportunity to enjoy a hot meal before and after a hard day's work. At the main DFAC alone, culinary specialists prepare over 1,000 pounds of food each day to serve approximately 900 soldiers per meal. DFAC personnel make an additional 200 meals to be sent out to various units that cannot make it back to the DFAC in time due to their mission requirements. "The main DFAC is operating three mobile kitchen trailers during the exercise,” said Staff Sgt. Oval Bajjo, 339th Quartermaster Company, 498th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion. “Each MKT prepares food for up to 700 people, so the DFAC is fully prepared to cover all the soldiers in the field." Operating the MKTs provided a learning experience for many of the junior enlisted soldiers who have not had the opportunity to work in one. Soldiers are not provided training in MKTs at Advanced Individual Training, so the exercise environment served as a prime venue for the soldiers to learn. "This served as a great opportunity to teach a lot of the junior soldiers the field expedient way of preparing food," said Bajjo. “My training from back then was a lot different from what it is now. It was nice to be able to teach them a little something different that they have never experienced. They get to go back with something from an old soldier.” Although the DFAC team had never worked together before, the fact that everyone's military occupational specialty is a culinary specialist facilitated the joint operation. In other words, a soldier from any unit could be assigned to perform any culinary task. "It's my first time coming to Korea,” said Staff Sgt. Dantae Lawon, N.C. ARNG, who came to Pohang to assist the 19th ESC. “I had a good experience working with different soldiers from different backgrounds. The many soldiers coming from different DFACs all around Korea gave us a variety of ways of doing things." The Pier 9 DFAC, run by the U.S. Navy, fed more than 400 service members working in the pier area. U.S. Army and U.S. Coast Guard personnel aided in the DFAC operations, often assisting as KPs. "You have to be really flexible and communicate a lot with the different branches because the standards are different for different branches,” said Petty Officer 1st Class James Wear, the culinary specialist overseeing the Pier 9 DFAC. “So you need to talk about it together and come to an understanding." The combined joint operations provided a unique opportunity for soldiers to not only form new friendship but also to share secrets of the trade, especially when sustaining soldiers in the field.