MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
For any Marine who has participated in a training exercise, the opportunity to enjoy a hot meal on the training field can be a rare treat.
Nine food service specialists led by their field mess chief worked to ensure that all of the Marines participating in the training received two hot meals every day during a week-long field exercise conducted by 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division last week.
“While this isn’t the first time these guys have cooked during a huge training event like this there’s still a big difference in demand compared to their normal work load,” said Staff Sgt. Gustavo Rijo, field mess chief, 2nd Tank Bn.
On an average work day, the food service Marines work to help prepare food for a single company consisting of several dozen Marines. For the field exercise, that number increased by several hundred additional Marines. “During training events these guys sacrifice a lot of sleep,” said Rijo.
“When everyone else is already asleep after a long day of training these Marines are still up cleaning and getting ready for the next day. Before everyone else gets up, these guys have been awake for hours cooking.”
For training events such as the battalion field exercise, the food service Marines clock in just minutes after midnight everyday to begin preparing food for the morning chow served at 3:00 a.m. and don’t get the chance to go to bed until well after evening chow has been served and everything has been cleaned and organized for the next day’s meals.
“If I had to eat three (Meals-Ready-to-Eat) a day out here I’d probably lose my mind, so it was a real treat to get two hot meals a day,” said Cpl. Justin Bates, embark chief, 2nd Tank Bn., who is one of about 500 Marines to eat two warm meals prepared by the cooks daily. “I never realized before this training event how much work the cooks have to really do or how much time they have to put in.”
Aside from the time and sleep constraints, the food service Marines all agree the hardest part of doing their job is setting up the actual field kitchen and getting everything they need sanitized and organized so the cooking can actually begin.
“It can be a very demanding job, but I absolutely love doing it,” said Cpl. Brian Bieber, food service specialist, 2nd Tank Bn. “It can also be a very satisfying job and whenever we get compliments or thanks for the food it makes it easy to work on just two hours of sleep.”
Large events, such as the battalion field exercise gives all of the other Marines in a battalion the chance to see a bit of what goes into making their food.
“Every Marine loves having something warm to eat whenever they have to get up early in the morning,” said Bates. “Now that I’ve seen what kind of sacrifice really goes into the food they make, I appreciate the hot meals even more. The cooks are awesome and I know we all love them.”