MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - -- Good food can be hard to come by in a field environment. And as every Marine knows, meals ready to eat get real old, real fast. Fortunately for taste buds everywhere, field mess halls exist to break up the monotony and give Marines an appetizing alternative.
In 1986, the Maj. Gen. William Pendleton Thompson Hill Memorial Award for Excellence in Food Services was established to help improve food service operations and recognize the best messes in the Marine Corps.
A group of food service specialists with 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, recently competed in the best field mess category of the annual W.P.T. Hill Award at Landing Zone Owl here.
“Most Marines go to the field, expecting nothing better than bad chow,” said Gunnery Sgt. John W. Jones, the 2nd Marine Regiment mess chief. “It’s our job to show them that a mess hall in the field can be just as good, if not better, than one in garrison. And I think we proved that here today.”
Lt. Col. John J. Fahey, the II Marine Expeditionary Forces food service officer, and his team of senior staff noncommissioned officers were responsible for inspecting and evaluating the team’s performance.
“This award is the pinnacle of our (military occupational specialty),” Fahey explained. “Units are vying for bragging rights; they’re competing for the honor of being recognized as the Corps’ elite food service Marines. Needless to say, the competition is intense.”
Participants are judged in more than 65 separate categories, including: camouflage and physical security, kitchen area sanitation, and attitude of personnel and overall command support, among others. This is all well and good, but after a long day in the desert, there’s only one thing a hungry Marine cares about – taste.
“Good food can go a long way when it comes to building morale,” Jones said. “Especially when Marines are in the field, it helps them to relax and focus on the mission at hand.”
Approximately 200 Marines with 1st Battalion and Headquarters Company, 2nd Marine Regiment, were on hand at LZ Owl to eat lunch at the field mess. Upon completion of their meal, patrons filled out a comment card, rating their overall dining experience.
“The comment cards are very important to us,” Jones said. “The Marines tell us what they want to see in the future, and we do our best to make it happen. Pleasing them is our ultimate goal.”
The competition is currently in the preliminary rounds. It’s the 2nd Marine Regiment versus food service specialists from 2nd Marine Logistics Group. The winner will represent II MEF in October, when they will be pitted against I MEF and III MEF. The team emerging victorious from this battle is named the best field mess in the Marine Corps.
“I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag, but I will say this group of Marines did an excellent job,” Fahey said. “I was completely impressed and overwhelmed with the effort they put forth.”