Cooks hope to taste top honors in international competition
RHINE ORDNANCE BARRACKS, Germany — For a soldier out in the field, especially on a blustery cold day, a good, warm meal can do marvels for morale.
Pfc. David Wood knows it.
That’s why he and other soldiers with the 29th Support Group take the Army’s Phillip A. Connelly food services competition as seriously as professional football players take the Super Bowl.
“It’s very important,” he said. “This is what we train every day for. This is how we make our living in the field. It’s giving to the soldiers, making sure they’re happy, making sure they’re fed.”
Members of the Rhine Ordnance Barracks-based 29th Support Group on Tuesday cooked up lunch and dinner at a makeshift camp in the woods in hopes of being named the best Army field kitchen worldwide.
The Connelly awards began in 1968 and are co-sponsored by the Army and the International Food Service Executives Association to recognize the best food-service soldiers. Awards are given in five categories, including the best field kitchen.
A group of judges grades each unit on how well the soldiers work together, the cleanliness of the camp and the quality of the food. The 29th Support Group already has earned the title of the best in Europe and is competing to win top Army honors. By the end of the competition, the judges will have traveled the globe to check out meals made from units in such places as Fort Bragg, N.C., and Fort Bliss, Texas.
In preparation for the contest, soldiers with the 29th worked long hours to cook a delicious breakfast and lunch.
“They’ve been working hard,” said Lt. Col. Richard Dix, the 29th rear commander. “The cooks take it very personal. They’re soldiers and they like to practice their craft out in the field and that’s what this is all about.”
For the competition, soldiers built a small tent camp guarded by barbed wire and soldiers toting automatic rifles.
On Tuesday, the cooks quietly worked in the small tent kitchen nestled in the woods.
As they prepared a lunch meal of rotisserie-style chicken, potatoes au gratin, seasoned carrots and blueberry crisp, judges peeked in to see how the team was doing.
Sgt. Major Tom Munson, one of the evaluators in the competition, said the competition recognizes excellence in food service and emphasizes the importance of preparing a good meal for soldiers.
“We have actually two types of fuel,” he said. “Think about that. You have the fuel that runs the vehicles and the fuel that runs the body, right? So, until soldiers can eat JP-8, there’s always going to be two fuels on the battlefield.”
The Connelly winner and runner-up will be named in December.