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HEIDELBERG, Germany — The Army honored its best cooks in Europe on Thursday during a food service award ceremony at Patrick Henry Village.

Leaders from the Installation Management Agency-Europe and U.S. Army Europe passed out the Philip A. Connelly awards and recognized the top food service troops during the hourlong ceremony.

It’s important for leaders to recognize and honor the hard work for the troops who cook for their fellow soldiers, said IMA-Europe director Russell Hall.

“Food service is a tough business,” Hall said. “How many of you are working when the sun rises?”

Since 1993, USAREUR has recognized its top enlisted cooks, who undergo a series of boards during which senior leaders grill them on various aspects of cooking and soldiering.

This year, Spc. Damon Ivey, 27, of Lake Charles, La., is the food service soldier of the year.

Sgt. Eric Burdett, 22, of Augusta, Ga., won the title of food service noncommissioned officer of the year.

Burdett’s unit, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 63rd Armored Regiment from Vilseck, took top honors in Europe in the field kitchen category and was recently evaluated under the Army-level competition.

Burdett, who enlisted four years ago, grew up watching his father, Samuel, cooking. Burdett said he was proud to call him and his mother, Jeanette, with the news.

“It makes you feel good that you accomplish something like this,” he said. “It shows that you’re trying to progress.”

And the winners are…

The following units and soldiers were recognized Thursday at the 36th Philip A. Connelly Awards Ceremony in Heidelberg, Germany:

• Winner, large garrison: Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment Dining Facility, Hohenfels, Germany• Runner-up, large garrison: Service Battery, 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment Dining Facility , Bamberg, Germany• Winner, small garrison: Headquarters U.S. Army Europe Any Mission Diner, Heidelberg• Runner-up, small garrison: Headquarters, 101st Military Intelligence Dining Facility, Würzburg, Germany• Winner, field category: Headquarter and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, Vilseck, Germany• Winner, large contingency: Balkan Grill Dining Facility Eagle Base, Bosnia and Herzegovina• Runner-up, large contingency: Montieth Dining Facility Camp Montieth, Kosovo• Winner, small contingency: Griffin Hill Dining Facility, Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo• Runner-up, small contingency: Coyote Dining Facility, Coyote Station, Bosnia and Herzegovina.• Food Service NCO of Year: Sgt. Eric M. Burdett, headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor, Vilseck, Germany.• Runner-up, Food Service NCO of Year: Sgt. Courtney Despardo, 28th Transportation Company, Mannheim, Germany• Food Service Soldier of Year: Spc. Damon Ivey, 72nd Signal Battalion, Mannheim• Runner-up, Food Service Soldier of Year: Spc. Stanley M. Eichelberger, Battery C, 1st Battalion, 33rd Field Artillery, Bamberg, Germany.• Note: No runner-up for field category— Stars and Stripes

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