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Home : News
NEWS | Aug. 24, 2023

Serving Dedication: an inside look of how Army Culinary Specialists get food on the table

By Cadet Jenna D'Orazio

It’s a new day. U.S. Army Soldiers are awake before the sun rises, ready to report and get on with their jobs. They do as they’re instructed and work themselves with little to no personal time. What keeps them going? Well, at the heart of any unit is the ability for their Soldiers to stay mentally and physically resilient. This wouldn’t be possible if they didn’t receive the proper nutrition to fuel their mind, bodies, and souls.

While working in the food department may seem like a straight-forward military job, it most certainly is not. They must learn to adapt and overcome challenges in order to provide for vast amounts of military personnel. Food shortages and exacting conditions can most definitely be a demanding hurtle, but these Soldiers have no time to waste when it comes to getting enough meals out to feed everybody while on a time crunch.

Staff Sgt. Lacy Phongsaly is an advanced culinary specialist from Fox Company, 186th Brigade Support Battalion, Massachusetts Army National Guard. Her main responsibilities consist of making sure Soldiers are fed, keeping food logistically controlled, and staying within the military’s budget. Not only must she balance all these heavy tasks, but she must also ensure the food is off the floor and clean, all while keeping in mind that it can’t be exposed to heat for too long. In addition, it is essential that Phongsaly and her fellow Soldiers enforce strict sanitary practices at all times.

It is vital that culinary specialists keep track of what they receive through shipments and mark it down. Phongsaly stated, “inventorying what the truck is sending us versus what we ordered is important because on the back end we need to let our state know what we were short, so they don’t get charged for what was missing, double checking that the vendor and the state are on the same page.” 

Organization is necessary in the Army’s culinary department. Once Soldiers receive the food, they must separate it so they can send it out to their designated locations. Here at Fort Drum, culinary specialists are getting extra exposure to the imperative details that go into getting the food ready to serve. Second Lt. John Rettman, platoon leader of the Quartermaster Platoon, which specializes in field feeding, discussed how it’s important for Soldiers to get exposure so they can be effective leaders in upcoming events.

“They haven’t really seen the logistical aspect of receiving the food such as bringing it over, staging it, breaking it out so the sites get their appropriate quantities that they can feed the Soldiers over the next few days … it’s incredibly important,” Rettman said. “Usually, in the military you get tossed into a role and have to figure it out. This is an opportunity where they can see the process, understand it, and get involved”.

Rettman went on to explain how food doesn’t only provide Soldiers with the proper nutrients but can deliver a sense of happiness after working long days in the field. Furthermore, a good meal can provide comfort and induce a sense of normalcy in environments where it’s hard to feel at home.

In the grand scheme of military operations, it’s easy to overlook the positive influence of a well-balanced meal. Yet, the well-being of every soldier, the unity of every company, and the triumph of every mission blossom from the creations that culinary specialists provide for Soldiers. Their mastery in the kitchen translates to excellent performance and resilience, which will ultimately give military personnel the strength to put in their all, even during their most strenuous moments.