Ready to serve: Army deploys sixth food truck to Fort Hood
By ROSE L. THAYER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 14, 2020
FORT HOOD, Texas – With its patriotic colors and gleaming silver panels, the Culinary Outpost food truck opened for business at Fort Hood, Texas, on Thursday, offering soldiers dining facility meals and prices from its rolling kitchen.
As the Army’s sixth food truck, the mobile food service is meant to reach soldiers working in far-flung locations of the base where there’s not enough time to get to a dining facility and back before their break is over.
“Some soldiers weren’t eating, or they would just go to the [convenience story],” Sgt. Maj. Sylvia Thomas, III Corps Culinary Management sergeant major, said they learned through surveying soldiers who live and work far from traditional dining facilities, where young soldiers living in the barracks can use meal cards. Other soldiers commented that their only dining options were commercial fast food or restaurants.
“The truck is intended to fill those gaps,” Thomas said. “We asked soldiers, ‘At mealtimes, where are you when you are not able to eat?’”
Three locations, one for breakfast, lunch and dinner, were identified, and now about 200 soldiers per mealtime will be able to dine at the Culinary Outpost, which accepts meal cards and cash. Thomas expects a credit card option to be available by the end of the year.
The program began about three years ago with two trucks at Fort Stewart, Ga., then expanded to Fort Carson, Colo., Fort Drum, N.Y., and Fort Bragg, N.C., said Darryl Thomas, food services systems analyst for the Army at Fort Lee, Va. Most trucks have meet and then exceeded expectations, he said.
“It’s been a success thus far. It’s keeping us in line with industry and taking care of soldiers,” said Darryl Thomas, who served 26 years in Army food service and retired as a warrant officer.
Soldiers spent about two weeks training on the food truck with personnel from Fort Lee’s Joint Culinary Center of Excellence, mostly learning to prepare single-serve meals in close quarters as opposed to the mass production associated with dining facilities.
Each truck is named the Culinary Outpost and serves a similar menu of sandwiches and salads. However, while the previous five trucks also have an Asian menu with stir-fry bowls, the Fort Hood truck has a Tex-Mex menu with tacos, burritos and burrito bowls.
To keep with the Army’s initiative to make meals healthier for soldiers, the newer food trucks sent to Drum, Bragg and Hood are outfitted with air fryers to cook French fries, instead of traditional grease fryers. These newer trucks also feature a touchscreen menu where troops can place their order.
Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz in Germany is the next location expected to get a food truck, and a second is headed elsewhere in the country in 2021, Darryl Thomas said.
Sgt. Maj. Sylvia Thomas, III Corps chief culinary management sergeant major, welcomes customers to Fort Hood's Culinary Outpost food truck Feb. 6, 2020. The Army has six trucks at five bases to get meals to soldiers working in locations on base that are not close to a dining facility.
ROSE L. THAYER/STARS AND STRIPES