CAMP EDWARDS, Mass. — Three airmen, a Coast Guardsman, three construction workers and the leader of a base groundwater cleanup program all walk up to the window of a food truck.
This isn't the lead-in to a joke. It's the latest phenomenon at Joint Base Cape Cod.
FoodRunner opened 14 weeks ago inside the gates of the Upper Cape military base through a one-year pilot agreement with the Massachusetts National Guard.
Since then Rob Mador and his crew have been serving up a menu of breakfast and lunch items from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. from a 35-foot yellow food truck to a welcoming group of military and civilian customers at the intersection of Generals Boulevard and Richardson Road.
"I usually get the salad, but today I'm rolling the dice and trying the pulled pork," said Master Sgt. Robert Segrin, on his lunch break from the 102nd Intelligence Wing on Tuesday. "The food truck is always fresh and quite tasty. It's not your typical takeout."
Sandwiches on the menu have military names such as "The General," a burger topped with bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion rings and barbecue sauce, as do items such as "The Chopper," which is a fresh fruit salad.
FoodRunner also features daily specials such as "The Tree Hugger," a spinach, onion, pepper, tomato, avocado and provolone cheese wrap with chipotle aioli. The menu may be viewed at http://foodrunnerusa.com.
Mador pitched the food truck idea to the military as an opportunity to employ and train disabled veterans, Gen. Gary Keefe, executive director of Joint Base Cape Cod, said. Seeing that it fit with Adjutant Gen. L. Scott Rice's goals of "people, mission and partnership," Keefe said the military worked to find an available spot at Camp Edwards for the venture.
That might sound fairly easy on a 22,000-acre military installation, but much of the land is accounted for under federal and state leases, Keefe said.
Mador is responsible for paying for the truck's utilities and any approved cosmetic changes to the site and pays $100 each month to the U.S. Coast Guard Morale, Welfare and Recreation Fund to offset money the food truck may be siphoning off from the Coast Guard-run golf course.
Until FoodRunner opened, a soldier, airman or Coastie looking for something other than the snack bar or the Coast Guard galley would have to drive off-base to McDonald's, Subway or another restaurant for lunch.
"You're losing people for an hour," Keefe said. "This helps with productivity."
Keefe, who lives in Western Massachusetts and commutes to the Cape, is a regular customer for breakfast and lunch at FoodRunner.
"The food is so good and so big," said Keefe, who noted that his personal favorite is "The General."
"I'm like a tranquilized grizzly after having one of those." he said.
Mador, 43, who does not have a military background himself, began thinking about going into the food truck business when he turned 40. "I started thinking: What kind of legacy am I going to leave here?" he said. "I was looking for a way to give back and serve my country."
After launching FoodRunner in Harwich with the same concept of hiring disabled veterans, Mador had a well-documented dispute with the state in 2012 over the use of a commuter lot for the fledgling business venture.
That publicity helped as he pitched the idea at Joint Base Cape Cod, he said.
"Everybody on base has been supportive and very kind," Mador said.
Now that the truck is on base, Mador said, he has hired a half-dozen disabled veterans to work for FoodRunner.
Rebecca Silva, 45, a 23-year veteran of the Massachusetts National Guard, said FoodRunner is giving her a chance to give back to her fellow soldiers. "My passion is taking care of veterans," said Silva, who is also the commander of the Mashpee Veterans of Foreign Wars post.
Silva, who said she is considered 40 percent disabled by the Veterans Administration, has done everything from working in the window taking orders to helping out with the administration and ordering for the food truck.
"I think the concept is fabulous," she said. "I feel at home here on the base."
Mador said business has been good, although things slowed significantly during the three-week partial government shutdown. On a typical day, 50 to 75 people get food from the truck, he said.
"We feed some of the same people every day and we get to know them, so it's interesting," Mador said. "It's an honor to be here."