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NEWS | Sept. 28, 2022

Food safety course fills gap for reserve component culinarians

By Terrance Bell U.S. Army Garrison Fort Lee Public Affairs

Twenty-two Army reservists from units across the country attended a first-of-its-kind Persons in Charge Course on Sept. 19-23 in neighboring Chesterfield County.

The Quartermaster School’s Joint Culinary Center of Excellence hosted the training. Chief Warrant Officer 4 Tollie Yoder, National Guard Bureau food advisor, said the PICC – which results in certification upon completion – is an extraction from JCCoE senior enlisted and warrant officer courses, and it’s meant to fill personnel qualification shortfalls.

“The purpose of this class is to identify and train individuals on advanced Army (food service) requirements,” he said. “The regulations require food service personnel to know and follow effective food safety and sanitation practices.”

Upon course completion, Soldiers were awarded ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification. The National Restaurant Association-developed credential is widely used in civilian eateries, supporting efforts to protect patrons from foodborne illnesses, according to the ServSafe website.

Couse attendees also learned how to be instructors and proctors. As a “train the trainer” endeavor, the PICC should help units quickly multiply the number of Soldiers qualified to oversee food safety requirements, said Yoder.

“They’ll be able to kind of grow their tree, per se, and have more instructors and proctors and be able get after that gap we have for this regulatory requirement,” he said.

Students were evenly divided between Army Reserve and National Guard. They were assigned to various food service positions and were comprised in rank from sergeant to chief warrant officer.

CW3 Gabriel Zettel, food program manager for the Joint Force Headquarters, New Jersey National Guard, said the credential not only fills a need for the reserve components but will have a marked impact on culinarians at the individual level.

“To be able to take that back to our formations is a big deal in addition to being able to use it on the civilian side,” he said. “In the National Guard, a lot of us work in restaurants or run dining facilities, and its great certification to have if you are a (92G) culinary specialist.”

Staff Sgt. Jennifer Toney, an Army Reserve Soldier from Annville, Pennsylvania, said gaining a civilian credential is a plus, but learning how improper safety and sanitation can negatively impact mission readiness was eye-opening.

“When food preparation is not done correctly, it’s amazing how many people it could affect,” said the Soldier assigned to 957th Quartermaster Company.

For some, the course rounded out information received previously. Sgt. 1st Class Lazaro Palos recently attended the Food Service Management Course taught at JCCoE.

“It’s a great course and I learned a lot, but coming through this (the PICC), it kind of fills in some of the stuff they couldn’t touch or put more emphasis on, especially when it comes to food safety,” said the warrior restaurant manager assigned to India Company, 141st Brigade Support Battalion, Las Cruces, New Mexico. “There were things in that course I wasn’t completely tracking.”

Palos said he highly anticipates sharing what he learned from the instruction.

“It was a short period of time, but it was welcome knowledge that I can take back to my lower enlisted Soldiers,” he said. “I’m excited.”

The Person in Charge Course can accommodate 24 students, and Yoder said it will be conducted on a quarterly basis.