ANAH, Iraq --
Since the boots of coalition forces were first imprinted in the sands of the vast Iraqi desert five years ago, keeping the forces fed has been an utmost priority.
Gigantic mess halls have opened at bases across Iraq, providing service members with everything from made-to-order omelets to T-bone steaks. Large corporations like Kellogg, Brown and Root, have taken on the task of providing staff and provisions for many of these mess halls.
But at distant outposts and smaller forward operating bases, the combat cook still forges the fire that provides warm meals for service members on a daily basis.
Before the sun invades the night sky, the smell of steak and eggs permeates through Camp Ocotal, Anah, Iraq. As the only combat cook for Company K, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Task Force Wolfpack, Regimental Combat Team 2, Cpl. Matthew Magnuson takes on a nonstop duty, vital to the success of his company.
Magnuson serves up to 250 Marines, soldiers and sailors. With the supplies he receives every four days, he cooks up a variety of meals while maintaining an orderly and comfortable environment in his mess hall.
“I like that I can say I gave those guys a nice clean place to relax and a nice warm meal,” said Magnuson, a native of Monroe, La. “I give them what they deserve.”
On his second deployment with 3/2, Magnuson has taken the lessons learned from last year in Habbaniyah to efficiently and effectively run the mess hall at Camp Ocotal.
“It’s extremely difficult taking over a chow hall and changing it to meet the requirements it needs to have,” said Magnuson. “I have a standard, and I make sure that standard is met, so I can provide the best service possible to these guys.”
An 18-hour work day may seem absurd to most, but to a combat cook, sometimes it’s reality. Stocking, cleaning, preparing and cooking for hundreds is a challenge that a Marine dedicated to his men takes on with a positive outlook.
“I just know that I’m helping out all the guys going out on patrol and that’s all I need to know,” said Magnuson.
With Iraq slowly regaining its stability, the need for an abundance of coalition forces will soon diminish. The large mess halls will eventually no longer be needed in many areas, but the combat cook will still be firing away, making sure that the remaining coalition forces have a warm meal, even in the most remote corners of Iraq.