Keeping Marines fed and fit to fight: Hialeah, Fla. native makes it happen

23 Mar 2005 | Cpl. Mike Escobar 2nd Marine Division

One usually imagines troops engaging in combat operations overseas to eat a diet consisting of shelf-stable, less-than-appetizing field rations.Thanks to hard-working Marines like Lance Cpl. Jarmon C. Ward and his fellow 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment cooks, personnel here eat fresh food every day as they conduct security and stability operations in Fallujah. The 21-year-old Hialeah, Fla. native and his seven teammates ensure approximately 1,500 troops receive three square meals a day by manning the camp's mess tent."We pretty much do everything around here," the 2003 Miami Springs High School graduate said. "We're responsible for setting out all the food and cleaning up the chow tent after every meal."It's a job that keeps them constantly busy."The day usually starts for us at 3 in the morning and usually doesn't end until around 9 at night, sometimes even later," he stated. Typically, the cooks gather breakfast food from Camp Fallujah, a nearby military installation. They spend the next several hours prepping the mess tent and setting out chow for the morning meal."We lay out stuff like bagels and fresh sliced watermelons and cantaloupes," Ward explained. "We have to sort through the bread real carefully to make sure it isn't moldy, and the fruit is checked for soft spots. We always lay out fresh stuff." The cooks continue working as the troops sit down to eat, wiping down tables, sweeping floors, and restocking snack bars and pastries."Everything always has to be kept clean and well-stocked," Ward added.After breakfast, the cooks clean the entire mess area and begin getting ready for lunch by preparing cold cut meats, cheese and potato chips."We're going to start serving hot chow for lunch soon, things like freshly grilled hamburgers and hotdogs," Ward continued.For dinner, the Marines serve a hot meal consisting of a variety of meats, potatoes, rice and cooked vegetables."After every meal, we also do a super field day (Marine Corps word for clean-up)," Ward stated. Aside from maintaining strict hygiene standards in the kitchen and serving floor, Ward and his teammates ensure the unit's Marines and sailors keep clean too. The cook's crew maintains a hand washing station outside the mess tent and bottles of sanitizer for those dining in.The cooks' day of preparing food, stocking supplies and intensive cleaning usually ends at approximately 9 in the evening.Although the job keeps them constantly busy, Ward said he's thankful it makes his time away from home pass quickly."Some days go by real smooth, but we're always keeping busy. By the time we get off work, it's usually straight to bed from there."