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Photo by Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis

Wing and ground cooks run chow hall for, by and of Marines

26 May 2005 | Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis

Three basic elements go into the morale of every deployed Marine — pay, mail and hot meals.

The food service specialists here are using one of the Corps’ newest expeditionary tools to ensure service members can enjoy nice hot ‘chow’.

With the Marine Corps’ only deployed Field Food Service System, a portable food preparation unit, food service specialists with Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 are part of a team of cooks who work each day to feed Marines, sailors and soldiers here.

“[The FFSS] is a great piece of gear,” said Sgt. Patrick M. Leach, MWSS-371 chief cook and native of Attleboro, Mass. “It has everything we need to prepare a large amount and variety of food for the service members here.”

The field expedient kitchen comes in three containers, which can be moved anywhere on the back of large trucks. Two units fit together to form a kitchen complete with ovens, steamers, braisers, deep fryers, refrigerators, sinks, and serving and preparation counters.

The third section serves as the sanitation unit, where all the utensils, pots and pans can be properly cleaned and stored.

“When we arrived here we did a site survey to find the best location for the unit,” Leach said. “In a matter of hours the units were off the trucks and set up.”

The assembly process takes as little as five Marines working for three hours to complete. After power and water are hooked into the system, the food service specialists can prepare up to a 1,000 portions at any given meal time. 

“The FFSS is a combination of all the tools and equipment we need to prepare a lot of meals in a short amount of time,” said Cpl. Curtis D. Woods, MWSS-371 food service specialist and native of Durham, N.C. “It gives us the ability to set up a field mess almost anywhere.”

The MWSS-371 Marines work in conjunction with food service specialists from 2nd Force Service Support Group and 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion to provide nourishment for the service members here.

The team provides an average of 1,100 hot meals a day to the Marines, sailors and soldiers serving with an expeditionary Marine Corps.

“We work well together, even though we come from different units,” Woods said. “We are here to serve our patrons as best as possible.”

In a time while civilian contractors are filling many food service jobs in the Marine Corps, the MWSS-371 Marines work in every aspect of food service to run a mess hall by, for and of Marines.

“This is the job we have trained to do,” Woods said. “This is what being a Marine food service specialist is all about: handling every aspect of the mess hall and making sure these Marines get the sustenance they need.”

“We are up first and to bed last,” said Cpl. James G. Siale, MWSS-371 food service specialist and native of Salt Lake City. “We make sure we do our job right, so the Marines on the base can be fed and able to do their job right.”

From administrative and store room work, to mess deck, galley and pot shack, the food service Marines here do it all when it comes to chow.

“It’s an amazing team to be a part of,” Siale said. “To be the only food service specialists in Iraq doing our job gives us a great sense of pride in being cooks and supporting the mission.”

*For more information about the Marines or news reported on in this story, please contact Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis by e-mail at*

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