CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Infantry Marines accomplishing combat operations in Fallujah now have something to look forward to when "chow time" comes around.
"They're getting hot meals for breakfast and dinner every day," said 1st Lt. Amy M. Akstin, supply officer for Combat Logistics Battalion 5, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward).
The Marines also get a variety of soft-drinks, fresh fruit, vegetables; a big change from how field Marines used to eat, said Akstin.
The prior method of food distribution left Marines only capable of shipping certain types of rations, said Sgt. Horace D. Buice, food distribution supervisor, Supply, CLB-5.
With this method, shipments of food arrived at CLB-5 in mass quantities. Supply Marines then manually sorted each shipment to fit eight different outpost's requests. Faced with so many orders, Buice found himself concentrating just on getting supplies out to the Marines, rather than picking and choosing particular items.
Those Marines out there could've been getting more than just MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), said Buice, who frequently skipped meals due to the time-consuming process of shipping orders.
On one occasion, Lt. Colonel Carlos Sanabria, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force food service officer, and Master Gunnery Sgt. Phillip Johnson, 1st MEF food technician, stopped by supply to check on operations.
They saw what Buice was working on and ended up working along with him.
With Marines receiving incomplete orders, and a cook skipping meals, it was evident that something had to change. That's when Buice and Sgt. Dwayne D. Amsterdam, a new addition to the team, proposed a solution to their chain-of-command.
Now each time Buice collects a FOB's order, he forwards it to his distributors, who sort the food before sending it to CLB-5. When Buice receives a shipment of food, all he has to do is load it and ship it.
This new method significantly decreased the workload said Akstin, 31 from Alexandria, Va. Because of the decreased workload, Buice and Amsterdam had more time, and more room for improved food quality.
"Now the Marines out there get to eat the same food we get at the chow hall," said Buice.
"They even get ice cream," said Buice, laughing. "Who ever heard of that; grunts getting ice cream in the desert?"
"It was (a complete) turn around," said Amsterdam, a 25-year-old native of Brooklyn, N.Y. Amsterdam knows precisely what good "chow" means to field Marines because he spent the first half of his deployment working out in the infantry outposts.
"From my experience," said Amsterdam, "when they get the good chow in... everybody's happy."
Good chow can take you away from here for a minute, explained Amsterdam, good chow can kind of remind you of home.
"I hope (our replacements) continue this method," said Akstin, "because it really makes a difference in the lives of the Marines who are out there."
"It makes me feel good, because we're one team. I'm doing my part," said Amsterdam, "I give (the grunts) my maximum, so they can give their country their maximum."
"We're out here to support the grunts," said Buice, who looked down at his hands, folded on his desk, before leveling his eyes.
"If all I can do is send them fresh fruits and vegetables, then that's what I need to do."