Virginia Guard G-4 hosts workshop for food service personnel

More than 16 Virginia National Guard food service professionals meet to discuss and review existing and improved food service programs, processes and policies Feb. 24, 2015, during the annual food service workshop hosted by the Fort Pickett-based Directorate of Logistics Feb. 23-27 at Fort Pickett, Va. The forty-hour workshop highlights changes to regulatory requirements and operational best practices to food service professionals from each of the Virginia Army National Guard’s major subordinate commands. (Photo by Capt. Andrew J. Czaplicki, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

More than 16 Virginia National Guard food service professionals meet to discuss and review existing and improved food service programs, processes and policies Feb. 24, 2015, during the annual food service workshop hosted by the Fort Pickett-based Directorate of Logistics Feb. 23-27 at Fort Pickett, Va. The forty-hour workshop highlights changes to regulatory requirements and operational best practices to food service professionals from each of the Virginia Army National Guard’s major subordinate commands. (Photo by Capt. Andrew J. Czaplicki, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. – Food service leaders from across the Virginia Army National Guard completed the Directorate of Logistics’ food service workshop Feb. 27, 2015, at Fort Pickett, Va.

The 40-hour course, held Feb. 23-27, highlights changes to regulatory requirements and operational best practices to food service professionals from each of the Virginia Army National Guard’s major subordinate commands.

“We are rebuilding the food service program in Virginia,” said Lt. Col. Michael H. Swanson, director of logistics. “There are updated regulations, policies and funding mechanism changes that require the attendance of the food service community once a year for training. We’re also getting away from contractors cooking our meals as observed during the high-tempo years of the Global War on Terrorism.”

This year’s workshop is the first where senior food service professionals from across the VaARNG served as presenters during the workshop.

“This event covers the administrative side of food service,” said Master Sgt. Gregory R. Mason, state food program manager. “We’ve brought in food operations sergeants and are teaching the proper procedures, accountability and the processes of food service from the initial request to submitting after action reports.”

The course reviewed the six basic principles of food service operations: administrative processes, receiving rations, food preparation, sanitation, cash payment procedures, and garrison and field food service equipment training.

“Commanders across the formation request meals every month and there is a lot of paperwork that goes with every request,” explained Mason. “We have to make sure that our food operations sergeants are working with their commands to make sure we are holding ourselves accountable for each request.”

Mason explained that the course has real-world practical exercises that force the participants to do the necessary paperwork and backwards planning using artificial time-phased milestones.

“It is so great to have this class with this much participation from the field, every [major subordinate command] is represented,” Mason said.

Changes and updates to applicable Army regulations were briefed to the participants.

“We’ve spent a lot of time covering updates to the field sanitation regulations,” Mason said. “It’s been a lot of changes since its last publication and it’s important that our Soldiers know the rules and regulations to better protect our troops.”

Students participated in several in-class discussions regarding documentation, best practices for requesting, receiving and using supplies, as well as lessons learned from working within a fiscally constrained environment. “It’s so much cheaper to have one of our cooks prepare meals,” Warrant Officer John T. Young, state acquisition manager. “It saves almost four or five dollars per Soldier instead of executing a commercial contract.”

“The challenge is working with commanders to determine the best way to farm out cooks to support as many units as we can,” Young said. “A great example is our units out in Cedar Bluff that don’t have an assigned cook, their higher headquarters is in Petersburg and those cooks are supposed to provide meals to their subordinate units–that’s nearly a six-hour drive.”

The common process of sending food service specialists from a headquarters unit to a subordinate unit is often referred to as “farming out.”

Based on feedback from previous workshops, the G-4 has designated a full-time member from the food service branch to oversee and support units execute local food service contracts.

“This role is typically provided by a traditional Soldier out in the field serving as a food service advisor, but because of the number of unit vacancies, we absorbed that role here at the state,” explained Mason. “It’s incredibly important to make sure we do things in accordance with fiscal law and Army regulations.”

Mason and Young worked closely with members of the VaARNG’s Fort Pickett-based Directorate of Operations and Training to minimize costs to conduct the course.

“We’ve brought on another food operations noncommissioned officer to help prepare meals for us,” Mason said. “Participants eat breakfast, lunch and dinner here, they stay at the barracks here on post and the only real cost to the government was their pay and allowances.”

Sgt. Jackie Simmons, a food operations noncommissioned officer assigned to the Manassas-based 266th Military Police Company, 1030th Transportation Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group, prepared meals for the 16-Soldier course.

“I hope that the food service programs in each of our major subordinate commands grow from the techniques and processes learned from the workshop,” said Mason.

“Soldiers are back in the cooking business!” Swanson said.

View and download high resolution photos here.