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Army's 'Ghost Brigade' competes in DA Philip A. Connelly Competition

Team trains to better support soldiers in the field

A soldier with 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team serves breakfast March 22 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, during the Department of the Army Philip A. Connelly Competition. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Samuel Northrup

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A team of food service specialists assigned 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team represented United States Army Forces Command during the Department of the Army level of the Philip A. Connelly Program for field feeding March 22, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Evaluators from the Department of the Army inspected the team's field feeding site, situated at Training Area 12 on JBLM, questioning members of the team and examining the team's operational implementation of regulations covering food service. Results of the competition will be posted later this year.

"The goal of the program is to improve the professionalism of the food service personnel," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Andy Martinez, the 1-2 SBCT Food Adviser. "This motivates the soldiers to hone their skills so they can provide best quality food and service to the diner. It also provides an opportunity to recognize the individual soldiers for their management practices of food service personnel and their field site."

Some of the items the teams are graded on for the Philip A. Connelly Program are training and supervision, headcount operations and cash collection, receipt and storage of rations, field food service safety, appearance and attitude of food service personnel, kitchen site setup and layout, food preparation and quality, troop acceptability and maintenance of equipment.

"This competition helps train them to be better culinary specialist in the field environment," Martinez said. "Everything is by the book so it forces them to get into their manuals and pay attention to detail."

They have worked their way from division all the way to DA level, Martinez added. Along the way, they have had these culinary experts grading and critiquing them on how they operated. That is invaluable in of itself.

Food is essential for morale, according to Sgt. Orlando Foster, a culinary noncommissioned officer with 296th Brigade Support Battalion, 1-2 SBCT. After a long day, the soldier looks forward to a good meal. It is important to prepare a meal they can look forward to.

"We try to find ways to improve the dining experience," said Spc. Marilyn Guzman, a culinary specialist with 1-37 Field Artillery. "For instance, we were given UGR-A (Unitized Group Ration - A Option) dehydrated eggs. Instead of just hydrating and scrambling them, we added spinach, tomatoes and seasoning to enhance the flavor."

Little things such as how food is presented is important as well, said Guzman. Ensuring the food is easily seen and presentable to the customers is an important factor.

The purpose of culinary specialists cooking in the field is to help give soldiers a glimpse of home through good food, Guzman said. This can help keep the morale up for soldiers during a field exercise.

"What I have learned during the competition is having fun while you are working and getting everything done is key," said Guzman. "You got to have a passion for what you are doing and what you are doing it for -- that is key. This has kept me motivated to do other competitions. The chance to represent myself, the unit, showing people what I know, this is motivation to hone my skills." 

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