Local Guard unit competes in national food service competition
The U.S. Army is known around the world for its war-making capabilities. What it is not generally known for are its culinary standards.
An annual food service competition members of the Army National Guard 35th Infantry Division participated in Saturday aims to change that second fact.
The Connelly Awards Program is an Army-wide food service competition intended to "improve the professionalism of the food service personnel, thus providing the best quality food service to supported soldier dinners," said Joy Moser, public information officer for the Kansas Adjutant General's Department.
In camouflaged tents in a remote, wooded area of Fort Leavenworth, the food service teams of the Leavenworth-based 35th were evaluated as they prepared meals for fifty soldiers. The judges included two officers and one civilian, all of whom had worked in food service.
"Our soldiers worked very hard in this competition," Col. Thomas Johnson, chief of staff for the Guard division, said.
He said the competition and its purpose was important because the food soldiers receive "does a lot for morale."
Moser said that because the judges evaluate the units one at a time, the results of the competition won't be known for at least a couple weeks.
Three other units, from Colorado, South Carolina and Virginia, will be competing with the Leavenworth-based unit.
The site's choice and camouflage, as well as the movement of the troops who would eat the food, served to simulate conditions in a field deployment. The judges rated the teams' management and operations, accounting procedures, sanitation, appearance and attitude of the food service personnel, serving, troop acceptability of the food, field kitchen site selection and layout, use of maintenance equipment, food preparation quality, receipt and storage of rations and command support.
The menu consisted of vegetable soup, parsley buttered potatoes, succotash, baked Mexican chicken, garden vegetable salad, devil's food cake, breads, fresh fruit, milk, coffee and tea.
The unit participated in the competition by placing as runner-up in the regional competition that included units from Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, New Mexico and Missouri.
The local Guard unit took the place of a unit from Louisiana, which had opted out of the national contest in order to support post-Katrina missions in that state.
Sgt. Mark Alligood of Lansing served Saturday as head of the sanitation team for the 35th.
Alligood said his four-member team's duties in the competition were to ensure the safety of drinking water and the proper temperature of water used to clean cookware and dinnerware, and to make sure no scraps that might attract rodents were left out.
Alligood said the team's responsibilities were mainly oversight of kitchen staff in these areas.
Alligood, a Lansing Fire District No. 1 firefighter, said his main specialty in the National Guard is communications, though during his New Orleans deployment in October he was in charge of equipment distribution and inventory. But for this competition and in the event of a field deployment and the lack of a drinking-water source known to be safe, Alligood and his team would be responsible for operating a trailer-housed water-disinfecting system known as the "water buffalo."
Alligood said that it got a little hectic Saturday, in trying to be four or five places at once. Of his unit's performance Saturday, Alligood said, "Overall I think the opinion is that it went really well."