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NEWS | June 15, 2023

Army National Guard company evaluated in regional field feeding competition

By Andy Dickson, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

Soldiers with the Kentucky Army National Guard competed at the 56th Regional Philip A. Connelly Field Feeding Competition at the Harold L. Disney Training Center in Artemus, Kentucky, on June 14.

Soldiers from India Company, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 75th Troop Command, set up their containerized kitchen (CK) and field sanitation stations for evaluation and competed against Service members from nine other states and territories geographically located in the southeast United States.

Winners would go on to compete nationally against the other regional champions in the National Guard.

Before arriving at HLDTC for the regional competition, India Company had to prove they were the best in the state.

“We competed against other mess sections in the commonwealth to be able to compete at regionals,” said Staff Sgt. Patrick Davis, the senior culinary management noncommissioned officer (NCO) for India Company. The state food program manager and state senior culinary NCO evaluated each mess section and chose the best unit to compete at the regional level.

To prove they were the best, the mess sections showed proficiency at every part of their job. They were graded on accountability through headcount sheets, sanitation, food preparation and serving, and equipment cleaning.

“We actually go off of the regional and National Guard Bureau level checklists to evaluate each mess section,” said Sgt. 1st Class Lacey Helm, the state food program manager. “We used those standards to determine the best unit to represent Kentucky.”

The competition is performed in an outdoor field environment. Soldiers are provided air-conditioning in their CK, but hot stoves and stove-top burners, which are constantly on for cooking the daily meals for almost 170 Soldiers, keep the kitchen extra warm in the heat of the day.

While prepping food, the Soldiers wear hats to prevent hair from getting in the food, cooking mitts when handling hot pans, and they leave their uniform tops off to prevent sleeves from also contaminating the food.

India Company, which is also challenged by the effects of a Department-of-Defense-wide recruiting shortage, is operating with only about half of their authorized staff on the team this year.

Davis commended his team leaders for performing in multiple roles in order to meet their timelines.

“My two team leaders, Sgt. Joshua Shofner and Sgt. Lewis Purnell have overseen the cooks to make sure they are producing the best field feeding meals possible with limited cooks,” said Davis. “They normally have three to four Soldiers working under them, but they are meeting the same requirements with half of that.”

Davis’ squad leader, Staff Sgt. Jamison Goatee, takes over the operational aspect when Davis needs to focus on the administrative and logistical portions of the competition.

According to Helm, this is the first year the Connelly competition is a two-day, two-meal event. They all must prepare a breakfast, and then they get to choose between making a lunch or a dinner.

Also, adding a level of fairness into the competition, this is the first year they prepared a uniform group ration, or UGR. In the past, competitors could prep ahead of time knowing they would be judged against others preparing the same meal.

“The units get to pick the meals and not the normal, Connelly menu that has been in the past competitions,” said Helm. “This gives each unit a fairer way to compete as past competitors knew the menu and would have their kitchens prepped for that one, specific meal.”

Soldiers overcame many unforeseen obstacles during the competition. The night prior, a large tree fell on the unit's field sanitation tent, destroying the tent and driving the main tent pole almost three feet deep into the ground.

Fortunately, the tent was empty of Soldiers, and no one was hurt. Th equipment inside showed only minor damage and the unit continued in the competition.

The Soldiers did their best to represent Kentucky, but they won’t know the results until the middle of September when all the other states in the region have been evaluated.

If selected, they will prepare themselves for the national level competition to be held in January 2024.

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