Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Iraq's Tasty Treasures

VICTORY BASE COMPLEX, Iraq – When you ask a Soldier about Iraq, the first thing you expect to hear are stories of the dangers faced and anxiety experienced. However, it is very exciting and rewarding to be a part of a convoy and see how other Forward Operating Bases look and to experience the different things they have to offer.

In addition to the mission, something else which has quickly captured my attention are the Dining Facilities. DFACs are something everyone thinks about without realizing it a part of their daily planning process. Sitting back to enjoy a fresh smoothie, real silverware or a big, freshly cut slice of fruit can make a huge difference in breaking up the monotony.

No matter where you travel, you can always ask and quickly be pointed to the best dining facility on the FOB. There is always something tasty or specifically fascinating that one has and another does not. Any FOB resident can easily tell you what that special feature is. For example, FOB Hammer has freshly cut fruits; trust me, there is no fruit better than one cut in front of you and placed in your bowl. Or, at FOB Scania, you can find a salad bar that has everything you could ever want on your salad.

Many Soldiers, like 2nd Lt. Alden Jones from San Francisco, Calif., with the 396th Transportation Co., have experienced the hospitality at JSS Suj. Jones said, "The thing that excited me is the hot "marmite" meal for breakfast and dinner." Chow at JSS Suj is trucked in or "mermited" twice daily from a nearby FOB because there is no dining facility. So, for other meals it is Meals Ready to Eat also known as the MRE, an entire shelf-stable day's worth of meals in a vacuum sealed plastic wrapper. The arrangement at FOB Suj is another example of each FOB having unique features that those going out on mission can get excited about. DFAC visits are always part of the pre-mission discussion and more than likely a contributing factor to mission volunteerism. Officers, NCOs, and Soldiers conduct their missions with high hopes of getting lucky enough to rest over night and eat at the DFAC.

For me, the excitement and thrill is an everyday experience while assigned to Camp Liberty on Victory Base Complex. Liberty is one of many FOBs on Victory Base Complex, also known as VBC. I can think of more than seven DFACs in the area. Each of these DFACs has their own distinct feature. For example, Stryker DFAC, has pizza balls, which, by-the-way, are excellent. The Division DFAC is kept nice and clean, and the newly-named Raider DFAC has an unbelievable salad bar.

At lunchtime, my commander always knows how to put a smile on my face. When we load up in that Ford F-150 of his and head over to the Oasis Sports DFAC on Camp Victory, I know, soon we will be enjoying those fresh smoothies and milkshakes. To me, there is nothing better than digging into that white deep freezer and retrieving a freshly made smoothie or shake. Another advantage of so many DFACs is that you can have seafood or down home cooking any day of the week; or, you can just walk back to the room and eat those cold sardines that Mom sent in a care package, but where's the fun in that?

When you read this article, it'll probably only take a minute or two to realize just how true this is. I'd also be willing to bet if you walk up to anyone on the FOBs in Iraq, they can tell you the DFAC scheduled feeding times and which ones are open 24/7, which one has the best air conditioner or the quickest and nicest service or is the cleanest. It is so funny to think how something so small keeps troops motivated and excited and morale high. I know as I write this article, it makes me wonder where I can go tonight to get that cut-in-half crab leg just waiting for me to dip it in melted butter. Well, it is 5:00 pm and De Fleury DFAC is having just what I am craving, so, off I go. But, I am sure after reading this I will see you soon at the Oasis dining facility enjoying one of those smoothies.

Chow, whether served in the air conditioned comfort of a palatial DFAC or pulled from an MRE bag in the gritty sand, is always on a Soldiers mind.

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