By 1st Lt. Richard Vogt
1st Cavalry Division public affairs
CONTINGENCY OPERATING STATION GARRY OWEN, Iraq - As the U.S. Army's mission in Iraq winds down, soldiers find themselves giving up more of their creature comforts. At Contingency Operating Station Garry Owen, Iraq, soldiers from 215th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division are "getting lean" in preparation for that day.
Soldiers from Forward Support Company Foxtrot, 215th Brigade Support Battalion, reached a milestone recently when they contracted SERKA Company workers who cooked meals and maintained the dining facility packed up their knives, chef's hats and aprons and handed over the day-to-day operations to Army cooks. Now, Sgt. 1st Class Horoma Domogma, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the cooks, has to do with 12 soldiers what SERKA did with 84 contractors. It's a daunting task, and soldiers are working long days to accomplish the mission. Soldiers' days are ending at 10 p.m. and then they start all over again at 2 a.m. to get the first meal ready.
Spc. Bryan Geiger is in charge of making sure the warehouse is stacked and ready to go. All supplies and food arrive by convoy, and Geiger has to unload and stack them in the warehouse. Once everything is stacked and accounted for, he pulls out what the unit needs for each meal.
Everything the dining facility needs is stored here: paper products, chips, drinks, food, condiments and meals-ready-to-eat, or MREs. The warehouse area is the busiest spot because food items need to be stored at different temperatures and certain foods must be defrosted for a 24-hour period before they are ready to be served.
A hiccup here means the hot meal soldiers were looking forward to all day is suddenly replaced with MREs.
"If he went down, I'm dead." Domogma said of Geiger.
"We must maintain the (dining) area, do a headcount, and that's got to be accurate to compare how much food is needed," said Domogma. "The ration order is based on head count. We have to monitor to-go plates so we know how much paper product to order. Everything's based on head count. You don't want to over-order," she added.
Kitchen patrol troops help with the burden. Fourteen soldiers from the companies work in two shifts to help set up, serve, and clean up. Without them, the cooks could not accomplish the mission.
Even when the SERKA employees were here there were still challenges.
When rockets landed just outside the dining facility, the workers wanted to quit. Domogma talked them out of leaving and requested that they get a briefing from the base defense group on how to respond to rocket attacks. Sgt. 1st Class Michael Schally, platoon sergeant for the mortar platoon, instructed them on how to react when the alarm sounds. His words made the difference, and the workers stayed until the Army cooks took over.
Domogma joined the Army in 1998 because she wanted adventure and likes to travel.
"I like the challenge," she said.
This is her fourth deployment to Iraq. Other challenges the unit has had to overcome include making adaptations to the plugs which were designed for use on the voltage current in the United States and not the current used in Iraq.