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AL ASAD, Iraq ? Corporal Colin B. Castles, food service specialist and Sandown, N.H., native, ensures one of the hot boxes in the dining facility here is set to the right temperature for whenever they start serving meals July 5. The food service specialists here supervise the work done by contracted civilians and ensure it?s done in accordance with sanitation regulations.


Food service specialists keep Al Asad’s meals finger-lickin’ good

5 Jul 2005 | Sgt. Juan Vara

The food service specialists in the dining facility here know their role and they don’t have a beef with it.  They know that being on top of their game keeps hundreds of hungry customers satisfied.

Though they’re not the ones cooking, the Marines have a lot on their plates.  Their responsibilities include supervising the preparation of meals, ensuring proper food handling techniques are used, guaranteeing the cleanliness and sanitation of the facilities, and making sure there is continued variety in the meals served.

“Food has a lot to do with the morale of a Marine,” said Sgt. Gregory Andre Davis, food service specialist from Harrisburg, Pa.  “If people come in and see that we’re serving the same thing as the day before they get upset and leave.”

And if roaming around the mess hall keeping a watchful eye on the work of the contracted cooks wasn’t enough, they also issue meal kits and containers with food for the satellite dining facilities.

“A lot of the people have the impression that we don’t do anything because we’re not preparing the food,” said Cpl. Colin B. Castles, food service specialist and Sandown, N.H., native.  “We actually do a lot of work, but people don’t get to see it.”

According to Sgt. Sharina Emily Mitchell, food service specialist from Cheverly, Md., food makes a big difference in the outcome of a mission and their roles as food inspectors and quality assurance evaluators allow personnel here to get a good meal day after day.   “If it wasn’t for us the Marines wouldn’t be eating,” she said.  “That would bring the morale real low.”

Davis said the cooks are hard workers who do a good job in preparing the many meals served here and decorating the facility every day.  “A lot of work goes into setting up this mess hall,” he said.  “There’s a lot of attention to detail into what they do.”

The food service officer for the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), Master Gunnery Sgt. Robert J. Massey, said that while his Marines are in charge of supervising the work of the cooks they keep a good relationship with them to avoid tension in the work environment.

“Obviously if they’re not happy working here they’re not going to put out their best product,” he said.

A St. Louis native, Massey said that while a large number of personnel here only interact with workers from other countries when they go to the mess hall, he and his Marines are with them every day for 12 hours.

“These Marines are out of their comfort zone because they’re not working with other Marines like mostly everybody else,” he said.  “They’re overcoming language barriers every day and they do it because that’s what they’re here to do.”

Carrying out different duties than those they normally would, the food service specialists here work tirelessly to feed the thousands of personnel contributing to a brighter future for the people of Iraq.

- For more information about the Marines reported on in this story, please contact Sgt. Juan Vara by e-mail at -
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