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Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan

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Field chow motivates troops

By Lance Cpl. David Revere | Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni | April 23, 2004

YECHON AIR FORCE BASE, Republic of Korea -- Meals Ready to Eat may be nutritious, but there's nothing like hot chow to boost a hard-working warrior's spirit.  The cooks and mess men of Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 devote every day to that mission as part of exercise Foal Eagle's forward operating base.

During the March deployment, their task was to provide a fully functional chow hall serving two hot meals a day to more than 600 service members.

"There's the logistics of where to set up, how many people we have to feed, how to coordinate with ongoing operations, and what kind of food to prepare," said Cpl. Damerice Jason Pierre, the exercise's chief mess man. 

Overseeing the daily operation of the mess hall, Pierre had to constantly adapt to the unpredictable field environment. 

"Being outside is one of the biggest challenges we face," said Pierre.  "We're out in the open and dust is flying all around.  Every night we have to stay an extra hour just cleaning."

The hours may have been long and the work less-than-glamorous, but there was something special about these mess men who made it all happen.

"They're different from the regular cooks," said Pierre.  "They come from all different work sections.  We've got everything from a calibrator here to a cable installer.  They're here to handle everything from cleaning the decks, to wiping off tables, to serving the chow we prepare, to dumping the trash."

"It's a lot more work involved than I expected," said Lance Cpl. Ebony C. Davis, a basic electrician from Marine Air Control Squadron 4.  "But the Marines have been very appreciative.  When they come in and say we've done a good job, I feel like I'm helping to boost their morale."

According to Pierre, Davis' positive attitude was shared by the entire group.

"All the Marines have great attitudes and that's the greatest thing about it," said Pierre.  "That's what makes this whole thing work."

The field mess has worked scrumptiously, as evidenced by the continuous flow of comments from appreciative troops.

"We've received good comments every day," said Pierre.  "Sergeants major and colonels come in and talk with us.  They all have nothing but good things to say.  With a consistency of that many people, you know you must be doing something good."

Though recipe cards are still followed, the cooks have also had to learn to adapt to using a minimal amount of cooking instruments.

"Out here, you don't have a lot of the things that you have in the galley," said Pvt. Clarissa Autumn Rowley, food service specialist.  "I enjoyed being able to start a product and then go by my taste buds." 

Rowley said the experience has taught her many things, in addition to giving her more appreciation for her job.

"Being out here with all the cooks and working in such a small space - it brought me a lot closer with every one of them," said Rowley.

The mess men also found a new appreciation for the role of food service Marines.

"I can tell you this: because of the work we've done here, I have a much better appreciation of the people who work back at the regular chow hall," said Davis.

"For me, this is what the Corps is all about," said Pierre.  "Getting out there, getting dirty - it's motivation, and I see it in my Marines' faces."

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