MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. − Under high stress and high stakes, food service Marines manage to feed more than 100 people while judged on every move they make.
Each year, mess halls from around the Marine Corps compete for the title of Best Field Mess. The challenge is known as the W.P.T. Hill Memorial Award and is sponsored by the National Restaurant Association.
Marines with Food Service Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st Marine Logistics Group, claimed that title this year.
"Setting up a field mess is difficult in itself, and it takes practice,” said Capt. Gregory Moore Jr., company commander, Food Service Co., CLR-17, 1st MLG. “What we set up at the W.P.T. Hill was larger than life. It took a lot of teamwork and a lot of small unit leadership to execute it as well as we did.”
For nearly a week, 40 Marines with Food Service Co. worked arduous hours around the clock. They were judged on hygiene, supervision, site selection, management, camouflage design, cooking proficiency, and presentation.
"It tests our ability to set up a field sight and to show how efficient we are at it," explained Sgt. Samuel Hodgeman, a field mess noncommissioned officer with Food Service Co. “It is fun for us to compete with each other and see who is the best.”
They were the only ones to use the Corps’ new food-service platform, known as the expeditionary field kitchen.
“This system is completely different from the last,” said Moore. “My Marines were trained on it at Twentynine Palms and immediately came back and used it in the competition.”
Even with the difficulties that come with working on a new system for the first time, the Marines rose to the challenge and pushed through.
"The type of teamwork that we had from the planning process to the execution was flawless,” said Moore. “I told them, even before the competition, ‘my heart was telling me we would win.’”
A representative from the command is scheduled to be recognized during the National Restaurant Association awards ceremony on May 18, in Chicago.
“When the victory came, it shot morale through the roof,” added Moore. “I’m proud of the Marines.”