Feeding an army; services technicians deploy to Alabama

  • Published
  • By Capt. John Callahan
  • 176th Wing Public Affairs
When the 176th Medical Group deployed to open a free medical clinic in this tiny rural town, they didn't come alone. Among other support personnel, they brought with them two members of the 176th Force Support Flight's Sustainment Services Element: Tech. Sgt. Trisha Willis and Senior Airman Allen Wilson.

"Sustainment services" is a somewhat ungainly name used to describe the wide variety of services element members offer: From food services and fitness program, to meeting the morale, recreation and welfare (MWR) needs of deployed service members.

About 35 members of the element's parent unit, the 176th Wing, deployed to Alabama, where they were joined by another 35 military members from an assortment of units across the country. Keeping that busy force fed is job #1 for the service technicians.

The meals are prepared in a kitchen at nearby Dannelly Field, home to the Alabama Air National Guard's 187th Fighter Wing. Cooking assistance is provided by members of the 556th Red Horse Squadron, from Hurlburt Field, Fla.; and the 908th Services Unit, normally based at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery.

Willis said the majority of the Alaska Guard members' time was spent driving, whether delivering meals to the work sites or picking up supplies in nearby Montgomery. She said so far, things had gone smoothly despite the logistical challenges.

"Transportation from the kitchen to the sites is the biggest challenge," said Willis. "Normally, on these deployments, everyone's confined to one spot, and we cook in the same place we serve. Here, we've got three different sites to deliver to, about fifteen miles from the kitchen."

"Except for the not having coffee at first -- that was a big ordeal for people," she said with a laugh.

The technicians quickly found fans among the Marines participating in the joint operation.

"We're used to MRE's. When people say they don't like box lunches, we're like wow, two sandwiches!" said Lance Cpl. Jacob Stacey, combat engineer with the Marine's 6 Engineer Support Battalion. "Cold pop! Cold apple! I could just go on and on about those. We're used to blowing stuff up, sleeping in the field, not eating at all. This is amazing!"