Meals Bring Marines Together In Afghanistan
(December 19, 2009)
Navy Seaman Timothy Wienke and Marine Corps Cpls. Carlos Martinez and Carlos J.
Orellana chop vegetables, season meat and cook sides at the Patrol Base Jaker
custom field kitchen in Afghanistan's Helmand province, Dec. 5, 2009.
||HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Dec. 15, 2009
– When Marines hear they must live at a small
patrol base for a long time, many think of
primitive facilities, dirty conditions and
bland, packaged meals coming from brown bags.
But for Marines with the police mentoring team
assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine
Regiment, living on Patrol Base Jaker near the
Nawa district's bazaar means good eats.
Dozens of Marines of 1/3's Alpha Company and
Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine
Regiment, skipped the regular meal lines Dec. 5
and followed their stomachs to the improvised
wood stove kitchen on camp, where Marine Corps
Sgt. Juan A. Flores and his team were frying
chicken, cooking rice and topping it all with
fresh pico de gallo over Afghan flat bread.
ingredients were purchased from the bazaar earlier that day.
The 1/3 “Lava Dogs” living at Jaker inherited the kitchen
from the Marines of 1/5, from whom they recently took over
the area. The hand-built, dual-burner stove is made from
engineer stakes, barrier steel wire grates, British military
ammunition cans and parachute cord. |
"Before we made it in October, everyone had their own little
cooking areas when we first got here, so we consolidated
them into one big one," said Marine Corps Cpl. Michael H.
Gobel, a Humvee driver for Charlie Company, 1/5, who helped
to build the kitchen.
"We looked through the junk pile and scavenged parts to
build with," said Gobel, 21, from El Cajon, Calif. "I used
it to cook on every night I was here. It was way better than
the usual chow, and I'm glad we're able to pass it on to the
1/3 Marines so they can enjoy it."
"Out here, real chow halls are not easily accessible, so you
rely on your Marine ingenuity to make things better," said
Flores, 28, a platoon sergeant from Los Angeles. "We want to
live as comfortably as possible, and dinner is a big deal to
all of us. Preparing a meal together, cooking together and
eating together – it's just like family."
Flores said he was very happy to see a kitchen already in
place on the camp, saving his Marines the effort of building
one. Before his team deployed from Military Police Company
at Camp Pendleton, Calif., he already had dreamed of making
his own meals while deployed.
"When I was deployed to Iraq last year, my staff
[non-commissioned officer in charge] wanted to make life
better and decided we were not going to eat [packaged
rations] every day if we could avoid it. We were living in a
house with the Iraqi police as we trained them, so we bought
and rented pots and pans, a stove – everything we would need
to make a good dinner every night.
"Pretty soon, we had infantry Marines from down the street
fighting to come over to our house for dinner," he said.
Meals usually start early in the afternoon, with police
mentoring team Marines chopping vegetables, gathering wood
scraps, preparing and seasoning meat, cleaning pots and pans
and buying last-minute ingredients. Their seasonings and
spices are mostly collected and donated from care packages.
"Out here we can grill it, boil it, bake it or fry it,"
Flores admits his team's cuisine has a Mexican bias, since
his main chef and more than half of his Marines are
Mexican-American or married to Hispanic women. Judging by
the crowd and smiles on faces of Marines gathered around the
kitchen, nobody seems to mind.
Marines like Cpl. Carlos J. Orellana of 1/3, who are not as
experienced with cooking, take it as a great opportunity to
"It's exciting for me to be able to do this here," said
Orellana, 22. "I cooked a little back home, but this is
cooking in the raw. It's a whole new experience, and I'm
going to learn a lot, too.
"What's great about this is that it all comes down to taking
care of people," he continued. "If someone says, 'Wow! This
is really good!' then that made everything worth it for us."
As the Marines begin training Afghan police forces, they
won't always be at Jaker to cook, but when they are, "you'll
see us cooking," Orellana said.
Article and photo by USMC Sgt. Brian Tuthill|
Regimental Combat Team 7
Special to American Forces Press Service
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