RICHMOND, Va. — The Danville-based Headquarters Company, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team has won the regional Philip A. Connelly Food Service competition and will now compete in the national-level competition in 2020.
The unit’s food service specialists competed for the regional title during eXportable Combat Training Capability Rotation 19-4 at Fort Pickett, Virginia, in July 2019. The unit learned they had claimed the Region 2 crown in September and will compete in nationals in early 2020.
“Our field feeding section pulled together on short notice to turn in a strong regional showing,” said Lt. Col. Ed Bochtler, 429th commander. “They took some time off in September for family day activities, but will be back training this month forward toward nationals next spring. I am proud of the work they have done and the support provided by food service professionals throughout the state.”
During the regional competition, already living in the field as part of XCTC, the unit began by selecting a site for their kitchen and field sanitation location. Under the watchful eye of multiple judges, they prepared a meal for about 70 troops. Working as a team, the cooks chopped and diced vegetables and prepared baked goods, while others made sure all kitchen equipment was clean and sanitary. Everyone involved made sure anyone entering the field kitchen, including the evaluators, had washed their hands.
The judged meal included stuffed pork chops, green beans with bacon, salad, minestrone, sautéed potatoes and corn bread. During the meal preparation, evaluators quizzed the cooks on their knowledge of the ingredients, sanitation practices and food safety information. Judges looked on as the cooks took the temperature of every item prepared to make sure it was safe for consumption.
Virginia National Guard units have won the national-level award five times, most recently in 2013 when the Gate City-based 1032nd Transportation Company took home top honors. They’ve finished as the national runner-up twice. Bochtler said the rigors of this competition are an homage to the VNG cooks who paved the way to success, as well as to the next food service specialists who might compete in the future.
“Virginia has had a long history of excellence of food service Soldiers performing well in the Philip A. Connelly program for field kitchen operations,” said Bochtler. “The Connelly competition provides an opportunity for 92Gs to hone their professionalism.
Ideally, this year’s junior cooks will become first cooks and senior food service NCOs for future Connelly teams.”
Bochtler also said the competition promotes cohesion and readiness between the entire unit.
“The Connelly competition emphasizes the teamwork required between a supported unit and the field feeding section,” explained Bochtler. “Supported units must provide command support, site security and field sanitation and water purification support, while food service Soldiers must pay attention to items such as presentation, portion control, and production schedule.
“These are items often overlooked by both the supported unit and food service personnel when the emphasis is merely on providing rations at a time and location to support training.”
Established in 1968, the Connelly program aims to recognize excellence in Army food service and is named for the late Philip A. Connelly, former president of the International Food Service Executives Association. The program seeks to improve the professionalism of Army food service personnel in order to provide the best product and service to military members and to provide recognition for the excellence of Army kitchen staffs in dining facilities and during field kitchen operations.