BATO BATO, JOLO ISLAND, Philippines -- When a Marine found himself running a field mess in the Philippines by himself, feeding nearly 80 Marines and seabees, it didn't take long for another Marine to volunteer to alleviate the burden.
Because of a sudden personnel shortage, Gunnery Sgt. Ricky Camacho, a food service specialist with Food Service Company, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, found himself relying on help from service members within his camp to keep the mess running during Exercise Balikatan 2007.
After Camacho juggled the burdensome mess duty with his duties as camp site commandant for 12 days, Sgt. Dustin T. Kuchenbecker arrived to help Camacho out.
"I knew there were a lot of Marines and seabees down there and that a personnel shortage in the field mess wouldn't be good," said Kuchenbecker, a ground communications organizational repairer with Communications Company, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division.
Kuchenbecker was monitoring radio networks at Clark Air Base on the island of Luzon, Philippines, when he volunteered for the opportunity to go to Jolo and help run the field mess.
"I wanted to do something and get a sense of accomplishment during the exercise and at Clark, I felt I wasn't getting that," he said.
During Kuchenbecker's time in the field, he would wake up before dawn to make breakfast and prepare dinner at night.
"After the first few days, I realized that I was becoming a big help to Gunny Camacho and the Marines and seabees," Kuchenbecker said. "The hours are not what I am used to. The days are long and hot, but knowing that I can help is what pays off."
Camacho said Kuchenbecker was a fast learner and his selfless service is a model everyone should follow.
"When he came down here, my stress level went down a lot," he said. "He absorbed everything I told him and had no problems whatsoever. He was always at work on time and provided great leadership. After he would finish with breakfast, he would go and help out at some of the project sites to kill time before he had to start preparing for dinner."
Camacho realized how hard Kuchenbecker worked one night when he realized Kuchenbecker was pouring mashed potatoes onto the turkey. They both laughed about it and decided to call dinner a "turkey fiasco."
1st Sgt. Darryl A. Cherry, the Jolo Detachment first sergeant, said that Kuchenbecker not only did an admirable thing by volunteering for the job but also fit in with the Marines and seabees right from the start.
"It's heartwarming to see him come down here to work and live in the field rather than enjoy his air-conditioned room at the hotel in Clark," Cherry said. "He's a hard worker and immediately integrated into the detachment's Marines and seabees."
Kuchenbecker said life in the field as opposed to a hotel was an experience he enjoyed.
"I came down here knowing it was going to be hot and miserable," he said. "But working in the same area where the Marines and seabees were made me feel I was actually doing something for them, and I would not trade the experience for anything. It's all about lending a hand when and where it's needed."