Soldiers stationed at Fort Stewart were handed a new mission this year – bring tasty and convenient food options to their fellow ranks.
It’s part of a food truck pilot program the U.S. Army has launched with Fort Stewart selected as the first roll-out point. Army officials say it’s all part of new modernization initiatives to update garrison food operations.
From burgers and fries, to tacos and salads, soldiers say they are happy to get a hot meal when and where they need it.
The new upgrades also include Culinary Outpost Kiosks strategically placed throughout the bases, similar to a grab-and-go convenience store for soldiers, and two new food trucks to serve eats and snacks.
The Outpost Food Trucks are designed to be mobile kitchens that can offer a variety of food choices for those who might not have time to make it to the dining hall.
Each truck has a standardized menu from the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence located at Fort Lee, Virginia, and offers an array of healthy food choices to keep soldiers fit and fed.
"The Food Truck is an extremely hot commodity in the Army since it is very versatile and can accommodate individuals who may not be able to travel to the dining facility and eat a meal during those set meal hours," said Staff Sgt. Cory Lewis, kiosk manager, 287th Quartermaster Company, Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade.
So far, the new culinary additions have been welcomed by hungry soldiers on the go, Staff Sgt. Lewis added.
"The food trucks are very popular and have a great effect on the soldier population at Fort Stewart," Staff Sgt. Lewis said.
The 287th Quartermaster Company, also known as the Field Feeding Company, is responsible for manning dining facilities, food trucks, and outpost kiosks on Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield. The company consists of nearly 140 culinary specialists who make up field feeding teams that rotate between garrison dining facilities and field training operations.
Army officials say culinary specialists can be some of the hardest-working soldiers in the garrison.
They train daily as soldiers while also providing support and sustenance to soldiers in the field and on Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield every day of the year.
"Culinary Specialists are typically the first in and the last out of every duty day and rarely get the recognition their efforts deserve," noted Col. Steve Erickson, Brigade Commander of the 3rd Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade.
"This food truck is just another example of the ways these fine soldiers put their skills and talents to work to support the soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division."
The new food trucks are made easily accessible to soldiers who are meal card holders, and civilians who work on the installation but can’t make it to eat at the dining facility. Units can also request the food truck for support during ranges and other training activities to give soldiers the chance to enjoy a hot meal instead of a pre-made field meal, known as a Meal Ready to Eat (MRE).
The new trucks have all the equipment of a modern kitchen, from stovetops, griddles, and air fryers, to coffee makers, sandwich bars and even a panni press.
It’s welcome fare for soldiers on the go, who need a hot meal to keep them going after a long day of training and exercises. And while the COVID-19 outbreak has limited the food truck’s locations throughout the base, the new program is a sign of the Army finding new ways to bring operations into the modern era.
It’s one that has gained the base national attention, with the U.S. Army covering the pilot program at Fort Stewart in their own official news channels.
"We look at the Army food program and providing soldiers with great and healthy foods," said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Kenneth Hicks, the Army food advisor with the Sustainment Center of Excellence, in a report about the pilot program.
"We're trying to look at new ways of delivering that service to a soldier in a footprint that is convenient to them."