CAMP ASHLAND, Neb. – Soldiers stationed at security perimeter scanned the horizon as enemy prisoners of war were escorted into the dining tent. Two military police Soldiers inspected the EPWs as they received food, ensuring no extra utensils were taken, conflict didn’t arise, and food portions were correct. Portion size was important, not really to security personnel but especially to the two judges staring at the scene from either side of the mobile kitchen tent.
The judges were two of three in attendance observing food operations as part of the Department of the Army’s Philip A. Connelly Awards Program for Excellence in Army Food Service.
The EPWs and security personnel were all members of the 530th MP Battalion, under the 200th MP Command. They simulated those roles as part of their unit’s participation in the Connelly competition Feb. 3, 2018, in Camp Ashland, Nebraska. The battalion is one of four finalists across the U.S. Army Reserve this year.
“The event simulates not only feeding the unit during a real-world environment but enemy prisoners of war detained by the unit as well,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Sharion Washington, logistics management for the 200th MPC. “They have to feed 50 people within one hour.”
Adding to the already stressful event was the sub-zero weather leading up to the day of competition.
Culinary specialists Sgt. Michael Briardy, Sgt. Jorge Reyes, Sgt. Eric Burmeister, and Spc. Kevin Hardy braved temperatures as low as -15 degrees during their practice days prior to the event on Feb. 3.
“We had pipes freezing up, water jugs freezing up, hand washing stations freezing up,” said Burmeister, a native of Omaha.
“This gives us the opportunity to show the command that regardless of what the climate or conditions are, the Soldiers adapt and they still carry on with the mission,” said Washington. “It doesn’t matter whether we are here in Omaha, Nebraska, or (other parts of the world), the temperatures are going to be from one extreme to the other, so it gives the Soldiers a real life opportunity to train as they would fight.”
The Soldiers did adapt; preparing more than enough food to feed everyone, including the judges, and members of the command.
Command Sgt. Major Craig Owens, command sergeant major for the 200th MPC, was among those who partook in the 530th MP Bn.’s food service.
“It’s always good to see support from the higher echelons,” said Burmeister, “They have to travel a little bit to get here to Nebraska. It was nice to see.”
Once everyone had finished their meals, the judges gathered the unit and recognized Soldiers for their efforts in the event. Among them was Pfc. Jessica Harig, a native of Lincoln, Nebraska, who was selected as the leader of the Field Sanitation Center for the event. As Soldiers prepared meals in the MKT, the FSC tent was in full swing ensuring the culinary specialists never had to wait for clean and sanitized equipment.
Winners will be announced at the National Restaurant Association Show later this year in Chicago.
“Regardless of the outcome of the competition, I’m very proud and pleased with their performance thus far,” said Cpt. Justin Sperry, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company for the 530th MP Bn. “Not only with the actual food preparation – which as I’ve said is incredible – but everything that goes with it.”