CONTINGENCY OUTPOST VIKING, Iraq --
Just north of the city of Fallujah lies Contingency Outpost Viking, home of Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.
The infantrymen of the company are truly living ‘expeditionary.’ They have limited air conditioning, no Post Exchanges, and rely heavily on resupply convoys to bring them living necessities and materials they need to carry out their designated missions.
Fortunately, there is one amenity that Company A has come to expect – at least one and sometimes as many as three hot meals a day prepared by Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 4 who work the Field Food Service System, an expeditionary setup that serves as a kitchen in austere and remote environments. Manned by six food service specialists, the FFSS helps bring a little taste of home to the Marines and sailors aboard COP Viking.
“Chow is morale,” said 1st Sgt. Roger Griffith, first sergeant, Company A. “In Operation Iraqi Freedom I, all we had was MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat). After a while, we didn’t even want to eat anymore.“
“Having the chow hall here really provides another sanctuary for my Marines to take their minds of their jobs for a little while,” he added.
The FFSS allows the Marines to cook meals from scratch and vary the menus provided to the inhabitants of the COP. According to the Marines that man Viking’s FFSS, their austere surrounding’s only real impact is the occasional power outage.
“We pretty much have everything we would have in a chow hall in garrison,” said Cpl. Jose F. Licona, the mess hall’s noncommissioned officer-in-charge. “It’s nice… we actually get a chance to prepare the meals out here.”
Keeping the chow running for an entire company of Marines in the field means early mornings and late nights for the food service specialists.
“We start cooking breakfast every morning at 5:30 a.m. and with cleaning all the dishes, we may not be done till 9:30 at night,” said Lance Cpl. Adam Hale, a food service specialist who works in the field mess. “We try and keep things different every day.”
The staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the FFSS, Staff Sgt. Manuel Lunavelasco, credits his noncommissioned officers with the success they’ve had since their arrival at COP Viking.
“My NCOs run the show,” he said. “I’m here to make sure everything runs smoothly.”
With the skills that these food service warriors have honed over their time serving here, they are surely to be an asset in any clime and place.