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Marine students prepare final meal in ‘joint-field environment’

By Amy Perry | Marine Corps Training and Education Command | March 27, 2015

FORT LEE, Va. (March 26, 2015) -- Truly mimicking a forward operating base mission is hard for food service students here. While trainers take advantage of existing training area assets, there are elements of the “full deployment experience” that are lacking like already having field kitchens in place, which negates the need for transportation and setup.

Earlier this week, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Morris Mayfield, a food service instructor at the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence, tried something new to better prepare his student in class 027-15 for future deployments. With help from the Air Force training squadron here, he organized a training event that included more realistic elements of field food service operations.

Part of his plan included packing up supplies and having the Marines set up equipment at the Air Force Prime Readiness in Base Services site – a field training location on post where Airmen exercise their deployment skills. He also organized an actual meal preparation mission to feed 300 bulk fuel troops, giving the Marines experience joint service operations.

“This event is unique because it’s the first time we have done the final evolution of their course outside of their normal training areas,” said Mayfield. “It’s also the first time as a school we are doing something joint with the Air Force by utilizing their areas in hopes of building a bridge of cohesion with them.”

The two-day training event began Monday with a 5-mile conditioning ruck march, where instructors took the students through the Petersburg National Battlefield and finished at the Air Force training site.

“Marines like to do conditioning in the event that we have to move locations,” said Mayfield. “It helped the students with their morale and camaraderie, as well as gave them some Marine Corps history. The march also helped them get ready for their fleet Marine force life. It’s conditioning to prepare them for what they may have to face at their duty stations.”

After the ruck march, the Marines learned about warrior ethos and leadership traits and principles, said Mayfield, and worked out the execution of their final meal.

While the students typically go back to their barracks before the final meal, this time they stayed in the tents at the Air Force site and faced low temperatures overnight and no electronics of any kind.

“This training simulated being in a field environment because we came out here with our supplies, and that’s the only thing we were allowed to use,” said Pfc. Frank Barker, who mentioned the training reminded him of Marine Combat Training. “Even though the Air Force facilities had other equipment available, we were limited to what we brought out.

“Most of the time, just going out to Quantico (to prepare the final meal), people don’t see it as a field environment because they cook on our mobile field kitchen,” continued Barker. “The items we had here are similar to what we would have in Afghanistan where we load up a truck with our supplies and we go to a forward operating base to cook for the Marines out there.”

That experience in a joint-service environment is exactly what Mayfield said he was hoping would happen when he planned the event.

“A lot of times, Marines will get into a friendly rivalry with ‘my service is better than your service,’ but the reality of it is we all have to learn how to work together,” he said. “That’s why it’s called joint culinary. No matter what our differences are, we all come together under food. The intent of being able to work together and the idea that no matter where you put a Marine at in food service, they can still thrive and do their job.

“The intent is to come together under the umbrella of joint culinary,” Mayfield continued. “We can learn from each other. In a combat environment, a lot of times, you are going to be under a joint service umbrella.”

Mayfield said part of the training including teaching his Marines why food service is so important, and the field exercise provided a opportunity to stress that fact.

“One of the biggest things is knowing that food service is relevant, and we are on everyone’s minds at least three times a day,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you put a Marine, he or she is still going to go out and accomplish the mission. It’s about the service. Food is important, but if you don’t provide quality service with that food, things tend to get lost.”