MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Cooking for one isn’t a challenging task. Cooking breakfast and dinner, seven days a week, for 2,500 to 3,000 Marines might be a little harder.
This task is accomplished by 25 food service specialists, every day at Camp Wilson for Marines and sailors going through Mojave Viper pre-deployment training.
“Right now we have four battalions on deck,” said Gunnery Sgt. Abel Davila, mess hall manager. “The units coming in will fluctuate, but right now we are feeding around 2,500 Marines in the mess hall and 400 to 500 Marines in the field. We also provide all the MRE’s [meals ready to eat] to the units training.”
Currently the cooks at Camp Wilson are on temporary duty assignments from the east coast and work a one-watch shift with no time off in order to meet the needs of the training units.
“We have Marines and civilian contractors,” said Davila. “This is so the units do not have to provide additional personnel, taking Marines away from training they need in order to deploy. Our job is to support units training.”
More than 500 gallons of juice are needed per meal to serve to the troops, said Merced.
“On an average day, the mess men break down over 8,000 portions of chow to be prepared,” said Cpl. Juan Merced, chief cook. “We usually get here around 3 a.m. and leave around 2000 [8 p.m.].”
While most luxuries cannot be afforded to Marines and sailors in training, the food service specialists work hard to provide them with a hot meal.
“We try to do as much as possible to bring garrison out here,” said Merced. “We try to improve their meals as much as possible, because when they go out to the field they generally get MRE’s.”
For food service specialist, Pfc. Steffon Williams from Camp Lejeune, cooking at Camp Wilson is different, but he takes pride in supporting the units in training.
“I’m used to cooking for 115 to 215 Marines, so this is a lot,” said Williams. “I like knowing that we are making a difference supporting Mojave Viper.”
Even though the job of a food service specialist is hard and involves long hours, many take great pride in their work.
“My favorite part of the job is when I hear Marines’ excitement on what type of meal they are going to get,” said Merced. “Or when they express that the food was good, it shows they appreciate it.”
The mess hall at Camp Wilson offers four types of breakfast meals and 14 Different types of dinner meals. They also provide units with requested food items.
Along with cooking, food service specialists also fill in other jobs around the camp.
“We support our company in many ways,” said Staff Sgt. Kevin Robinson, food service specialist. “Whether it be going to the field, standing guard for security or road guarding.
We’re not a single MOS [military occupational specialty] anymore, we’re so versatile.”
As units continue to train for war, food service specialist continue to put in long hours making sure the Marines and sailors at Camp Wilson, and in the field, receive a hot meal for breakfast and dinner.