Screaming Eagle food service specialists assigned to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) were recently recognized for their culinary expertise and accomplishments made last year.
Readiness is one of the division’s top priorities, and 101st Abn. Div. food service specialists enable Soldier-readiness by sustaining the warfighters.
“Our Soldiers are our most important weapon system, and the fuel that makes them so is prepared and provided by our outstanding food service specialists,” said Maj. Gen. Brian Winski, 101st Abn. Div. commander, as he applauded the efforts of several culinary Soldiers during a Feb. 4 ceremony at the Snipes Dining Facility.
Winski recognized the division’s culinary specialist and noncommissioned officer of the year – Spc. Olajuwon King and Sgt. Chhaya Phat, assigned to the 619th Field Feeding Company, 101st Special Troops Battalion, 101st Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade, 101st Abn. Div. (AA).
To earn culinary specialist and NCO of the year, King and Phat respectively had to excel at a cooking competition where they created the best three-course meal out of mystery items and competed against other food service specialists at a military board.
“As a culinarian, you have to stay motivated and disciplined,” said King, a native of Indianapolis, Indiana. “There’s no room for error when you’re cooking for a whole brigade. We have to be ready for operations from when the sun rises to when the sun sets.”
Not only do Fort Campbell’s food service specialists work toward individual accomplishments, they also must ensure the kitchen, as a whole, functions properly. All members in a dining facility or military kitchen have a specific role, and they must work together as a team to effectively serve their fellow Soldiers.
“My team, we each have our strong suits and we combine those skills,” said Pfc. Marvin Taylor, Prince George, Virginia native and member of the 619th Field Feeding Company. “For example, someone on my team is good at pipping and plating, and I’m really good at sculpting and baking cakes. Since we know each other’s roles, it helps us to create large amounts of high-quality food in a short amount of time.”
Taylor’s team showcased their culinary expertise and teamwork abilities and won first place in last year’s Army Birthday Cake competition. He and members of the 101st Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade dining facility prepared and decorated the best cake for the U.S. Army’s 244th birthday in June.
Also recognized were food service specialists with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team dining facility who won first place in last year’s division birthday cake competition, baking and decorating the best cake for the Screaming Eagle’s 77th birthday in August.
The 2nd BCT dining facility members also were the “runner-up” in the military garrison category of the 52nd Annual Philip A. Connelly Awards.
King said culinary competitions boost morale and motivate him to continue to excel.
“I’m always excited when the Army pushes me,” he said. “Competitions always keep me on my toes. I’m looking forward to the next competition or the next challenge they’ll throw at me.”
But competition isn’t everything, King said.
“I truly care about what I put out for the Soldiers of Fort Campbell to eat because I’m not just feeding Soldiers, I’m helping keep the next generations of a truly incredible legacy ready for their next challenge,” he said.