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NEWS | Dec. 20, 2016

Fuel for Training: Food Service Personnel Play Key Role in Toy Drop Operations

By Capt. Ebony Malloy U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne)

No mission in the military can succeed without the behinds the scenes support that many people forget about. There are multiple moving parts that go along with a training operation, especially one as big as Operation Toy Drop.

The U.S. Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) led Operation Toy Drop XIX, the world’s largest annual combined and joint airborne operation and training exercise.

With jumpmasters from eight nations, over 320 multi-component personnel along with more than 130 USACAPOC(A) personnel who took part in the collective training; you better believe there’s going to be some extremely hungry and thirsty Soldiers so that makes the supporting elements that much more important.

Lt. Col. Alexia Fields, the USACAPOC (A) logistics deputy G4/ground officer-in-charge for Operation Toy Drop XIX talked about moving parts that are required to make an operation of this size successful.

Fields stated that she was responsible for all operations that would be needed and necessary to support Operation Toy Drop which included logistical and human resource functions, as well as personnel support for all paratroopers that conducted the multi-national airborne operation.

 “A mission for Toy Drop starts at least a year out. Once this mission is over, we will almost immediately get the warning order stating that we will be conducting or operating a mission the following year. Once Soldiers arrive for the mission, they encounter a robust supply and services element, which covers food service, supplies, admin support and many other things, to ensure mission success for all these units that are here not only to support a mission, but to also get necessary job training that they may not get in the civilian world.

She explained that her previous experiences and encounters have helped her in preparation for OTD XIX. “I’ve had the opportunity to do those intensive functions of making sure my Soldiers had food and water supplies. I’ve supervised culinary specialists, been in a sustainment brigade and have seen Soldiers set up a military containerized kitchen. For me, it’s the best of all worlds. Being part of the logistics staff, I get to see those logistical functions actually accomplished which is very rewarding.”

Fields goes on to say that even if other operations were canceled, the support continued, and thanks to that, the supporting staff still received good training.

“Our Soldiers were still at work at 0500 hours to ensure food was ready and picked up and transported out to the drop zone to ensure all of the staff personnel were served. It’s very heartening to see that just because an airborne operation doesn’t occur, the overall support for logistics still happens.” she said.
Fields finished by saying that throughout history food service is always important. 

“Food services is always one of your favorite components because you sustain the force with the food that you provide. It’s nourishing to the soul. I’m always excited that there might always be a maneuver element, there might always be a mission but without that logistical support you’ll never be able to sustain the force. That’s the part I’m always grateful for. There’s always a purpose for our Soldiers and when we keep in mind that our mission is support, it’s always great.”

With food being offered at three different locations, and hundreds of Soldiers going through the tent, mission success wasn’t the only thing at large.

“I feel that when everyone is well feed the morale will be higher,” said Sgt. Leroy McKinley, a heavy vehicle operator and culinary specialist with the 942nd Transportation Company in West Hartford, Conn.

Outside of a different training environment and having the opportunity to interact with foreign jumpmasters, McKinley also talked about the importance of integration between different units, and even different service branches.

“I think the unification amongst the crew is very important. It’s been going well and everyone pulls their own weight, it helps things move faster. It’s hands-on so we’re able to breakdown the food supplies and equipment and move to the next site for operations without delays. 
Spc. Savannah Yerdon, a culinary specialist assigned 1018th Quartermaster Company in Schenectady, N.Y., also supported the command post operations aspect of this year’s Toy Drop. She talked about the daily preparations that her 6 person food service crew went through.

 “I get the food for the duration that I’m doing the production schedule for rations, figure out the times that I need to have the meals out, time management of when to have the food prepared and then feed everybody,” she said.

Yerdon stated that the Soldiers have to be fed because it keeps them happy, it keeps them going, it enables them to do their duties better and if Soldiers are not fed, it could make or break a day which is why she believes her crew has such a vital role in the operation. Like many other Soldiers providing support, Yerdon explained this kind of operation gives her the chance to finally do her military job.

 “I like the operation because it has given me the time to have more experience to carryout active duty cooking tasks, learning the importance of getting the food out to Soldiers on time and ensuring that there is enough rations for all the Soldiers.”

Yerdon’s love for cooking and helping people meshed with her decision to become a culinary specialist. Along with her passion for aiding others, she also views food distribution as an entity that makes people happy.

“The way to people’s hearts is through their stomach”, she said.