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‘Black Jack’ cooking team competes for Connelly award

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Posted: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 12:00 pm

By Colleen Flaherty

Fort Hood Herald

Armed with eggs and bacon, soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team launched a full-scale assault on breakfast Wednesday in pursuit of the Philip A. Connelly Award for excellence in field cooking.

After winning the Fort Hood-wide Connelly round in March, soldiers from the "Black Jack" brigade field cooking team vied in the early morning hours for U.S. Forces Command-level honors. The heat was on in the mobile kitchen unit and outside, as inspectors from the command observed soldiers' adherence to field cooking standards, presentation and sanitation, among other aspects of the meal.

The 10-member team was responsible for serving 150 soldiers eggs, bacon, steak and apple-cinnamon oatmeal in the field.

"We're mainly looking at, do soldiers know their jobs," said Chief Warrant Officer-5 Princido Texidor, Forces Command's food service adviser. "What it boils down to is preparation and skills. This is like the Super Bowl of field cooking, with all the best teams."

The 2nd Brigade field team is representing Fort Hood against three other Army installation's top teams. If they win, they'll advance to the all-Army final round this fall.

Staff Sgt. Diane Arthus, team breakfast shift leader, from 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, said Black Jack was in it to win it.

"After all the effort we put into this, the blood, sweat and tears - with the wind and rain and the heat - it'll mean that the sacrifice was worth it," she said. The team prepared for about a month for Wednesday's round, which also included a lunch service of turkey, stuffing and sides.

A passion for cooking kept Spc. Justin DeWitt, one of two shift cooks, cool in the kitchen during the event.

"A good meal makes soldiers confident in themselves," said DeWitt, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment.

Chief Warrant Officer-3 Jason Hicks, III Corps' top food service advisor, agreed, saying that a good meal is a known morale booster for troops.

"It all starts with us," he said. "If you have a bad cup of coffee, you might have a bad day at work."

Sanitation skills also are important, he said, as a soldier can't perform his duties in the field if he's ill.

Chief Warrant Officer-2 Joseph Bodirsky, the brigade's top food service adviser, said it's been years since the brigade has been in the Connelly competition due to deployments, and that getting back into the game signaled a return to "the basics."

"Looking back at when I got in, it's a very different Army now," said Bodirsky. "But moving to a less deployed Army, we're getting back to what we do best. I mean, we're good out what we do (overseas), but we're good at what we do here, too."

Pfc. Jerry Coddington-Blanding of 15th Brigade Support Battalion was one of the soldiers tasked with eating the day's meal. He called the food "pretty good," especially the eggs.

Although the selection was typical for field food, he said, he appreciated the hearty start to his day. "When you get a (meal-ready-to-eat) for breakfast, you can't really subsist on that."

Contact Colleen Flaherty at colleenf@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHFortHood.

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