FORT POLK, La. - Soldiers' lives depend on getting the proper caloric intake during field training exercises. In order to meet those dietary needs, 11 food service specialists from the 189th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion are combining efforts with the 82nd Airborne Division to support service members during a joint operational access exercise underway at the intermediate staging base dining facility.
The ISB dining facility supports more than 6,000 soldiers each day with two hot meals for breakfast and dinner. Soldiers consume meals ready to eat for lunch or when the mission keeps them from returning to the dining facility. MREs are self-contained, individual field rations.
"It's ten times better to have a hot meal than to have an MRE," said Spc. Andres Calzada Ricardo Quintana, a food service specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 189th CSSB, and Philadelphia native. "Hot meals bring up the morale."
Food service specialists have to plan three days prior to cooking meats to allow for adequate thawing times. Preparations for this exercise started months in advance to calculate the size of troops that needed support and menus for a month-long exercise. Food is delivered from Fort Polk and stored in large coolers until prepping and serving times.
"Preparations are running 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said Sgt. 1st Class Edison Bell, the ISB dining facility noncommissioned officer in charge and Myrtle Beach, S.C., native.
Food service specialists begin cooking meals as early as 2 a.m. for breakfast and keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold with plastic containers called mermites. The first meal served at the dining facility consisted of chicken cordon bleu, green beans, spinach pasta and other side dishes.
"It's good to have a warm meal," said Spc. Erica Mckee, a petroleum laboratory specialist with 127th Quartermaster Company, 189th CSSB, and McAllen, Texas, native. "It was impressive with the chicken cordon bleu. It was delicious."