Sometimes it is just not feasible for soldiers to make it to a dining facility for a meal. Whether the nearest dining facility is too far to get to or isn’t open, at times the only option to get a meal is to run to the nearest fast food restaurant.
Now, if soldiers can’t go to the “chow hall,” the dining facility can go to them. Enter The Culinary Outpost, an Army food truck that opened up for business on Thursday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of III Corps headquarters.
The food truck is operated by Army cooks and offers a variety of choices for breakfast and a Tex-Mex themed menu for lunch and dinner, said Sgt. Maj. Sylvia Thomas, the III Corps chief culinary management sergeant major. Soldiers with meal card accounts can get a meal using their military identification card, and those without a meal account can pay cash.
Thomas said they hope to have credit card machines by the end of the year, which will allow the food truck and the brick and mortar dining facilities to accept debit and credit cards for payment.
“In total, we have 14 designated people who are going to run this truck so they can create shifts,” she said. “The intent is for us to be able to run it five times a week, three meals a day, and then on weekends, where the dining facility out on West Fort Hood is closed, we’re going to go out there so we can support our customers so they have the means to have something to eat as well.”
The idea for food trucks came about when the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence G-4 (logistics) ventured out to see how the Army could stay competitive with its civilian counterparts, Thomas said. They found that food trucks have been the biggest thing for the last few years.
“It allows the truck to be mobile and to out to the soldiers instead of waiting for them to come to us,” she said. “It works well both ways there — we stay competitive and we still service those soldiers that wouldn’t have the opportunity to come to us (at dining facilities).”
The cooks designated to run the food truck come from the 1st Cavalry Division, 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command and the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, Thomas said. The 1st Cavalry Division has been designated to manage the truck on a daily basis.
“Having a food truck opens up a whole new list of experiences for cooks in the Army,” said Spc. Shaquel Cunningham, culinary specialist from 1st Cavalry Division. “And I’m gaining experience that will definitely help out in the civilian sector, which is seeing more and more food trucks in operation.”
So far the Army has six of the food trucks in operation, said retired Chief Warrant Officer 3 Darryl Thomas, an Army food service systems analyst based out of Fort Lee, Virginia. Of the first three trucks fielded, two were sent to Fort Stewart, Georgia, and a third to Fort Carson, Colorado.
After some trial and error, changes were made to the interior design of the truck, he said.
“The first (second generation) truck went to Fort Drum, New York, the second we fielded at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and this one (at Fort Hood) is the third Gen 2 truck to be fielded,” Darryl Thomas said. “The trucks cost $250,000 each, with the generation two trucks containing air fryers and counters designed to reduce food spillage.”
So far, the program has been a success, he said.
“We have to stay competitive with our counterparts, so we want to keep our military personnel interested in our food program,” Darryl Thomas said. “So in order to stay relevant, and in order to stay in competition with the industry, we came up with the food trucks.”
Currently, breakfast will be served at the Copeland Center, Bldg. 18010, beginning at 7 a.m. Lunch will be served at 11 a.m., Monday and Tuesday at Hood Army Airfield. Additional dates and times will be announced at a later date. The intent is market the truck on social media so soldiers will be able to find where the truck will be on a specific day, according to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Andy Martinez, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade food advisor.
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