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Senior Airman Keith Logan, of the 35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, grabs lunch to go Wednesday at Grissom Dining Facility on Misawa Air Base, Japan. Faced with a tight budget for the rest of the fiscal year, to save money the 35th Services Squadron recently limited takeout meals to uniformed military personnel.

Senior Airman Keith Logan, of the 35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, grabs lunch to go Wednesday at Grissom Dining Facility on Misawa Air Base, Japan. Faced with a tight budget for the rest of the fiscal year, to save money the 35th Services Squadron recently limited takeout meals to uniformed military personnel. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Another convenience is a casualty of war: A new Grissom Dining Facility policy allows only uniformed personnel to get their meals to go.

The estimated monthly savings of $750 to $1,000 isn’t much. But costs of Styrofoam to-go boxes, plastic utensils, salt and pepper packets and other condiments add up, officials said. Faced with another sparse budget year, pinching pennies is the order of the day.

“Money’s really tight and we have to economize wherever we can,” said Maj. Tim Sites, 35th Services Squadron commander.

Pacific Air Forces, he said, has indicated there won’t be a lot more money “coming our way” for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

Sites said Services is looking at ways to save money elsewhere, but plans are still in the works.

Limiting takeout at Grissom, he said, is a small cost-savings measure that doesn’t affect the mission “and that’s to get folks back to work.” The new policy also applies to the Falcon Feeder, but most customers there are in uniform because of its location on the flight line, Sites said.

Grissom, the main enlisted mess on base, feeds about 350 people a day. It primarily serves unaccompanied enlisted troops who live in base dormitories and hold meal cards. Other enlisted members — those who are married or live off base and receive a food stipend — pay for their meals.

Sites said officials have no exact count on how many people used takeout before the March 20 policy change.

“The point is to reduce the use and this is one small step,” he said.

Master Sgt. Jean-Luc Tetrault, Grissom Dining Facility manager, said that already “we’ve noticed a drop.” Takeout was popular with customers “who want to go back to their dorms and relax, especially on weekends,” he said.

On Wednesday at lunchtime, Grissom was buzzing with mostly uniformed Navy and Air Force personnel, including some who were unhappy with the new policy.

“It’s a pretty big inconvenience,” said Airman 1st Class Jefferson Ragudos, of 35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. “Whenever I go to the gym, I just want to get my food and go home instead of sitting here.”

Senior Airman Chad Cruz, of 35th Security Forces Squadron, said: “The guys in the dorms, if they want to come over for midnight chow, they’ll have to get in uniform. They don’t have a kitchen up there, so it’s a little rough.”

Other customers were philosophical or indicated they didn’t care.

“It’s like an escalator that becomes stairs — it’s really not an inconvenience,” said Senior Airman William Brennan, of 35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. “Whatever the Air Force does to save money, I’m happy with it.”

Added Petty Officer 3rd Class Hayato Campos of the Navy’s Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Detachment: “I only eat here during working hours, and on weekends I eat my own food.”

Manager Tetrault said some items, such as canned soda and other drinks, still are available for takeout. The new policy applies to most hot and cold food to go, he said.

author picture
Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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