By Air Force Senior Airman Hannah Landeros
379th Air Expeditionary Wing
SOUTHWEST ASIA, Dec. 20, 2013 – Being separated from family during the holidays can be a tough time for deployed service members.
At the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing here, the 379th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron food services team works to bring holiday food and cheer to service members and civilians away from home for the holiday season.
The Independence Dining Facility accomplishes this and feeds the most people in the U.S. Air Force Central Command area of responsibility 24/7.
Holiday meal planning begins nearly two months before the event takes place.
More than 100 volunteers, including other country nationals and military members make up the team that prepares the meal and provide an atmosphere of holiday cheer.
“Our body, mind and souls need a little relaxation from time to time, and celebrating the holidays is a great way to consume the good stuff,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Tanja Hawkins, the 379th’s EFSS food services coordinator, and a Waynesboro, Va., native, deployed from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.
Holiday dinners boost morale and make service members feel at home, Hawkins said.
During the holiday dinner, senior leadership volunteer by serving meals to service members, coalition partners and contractors, explained Air Force Airman 1st Class Sean Jeffcoat, a Fayetteville, N.C., native, deployed from Malmstrom Air Force Bace, Mont.
“It really means a lot to our customers when they come in and see their leadership and mentors going to work with their aprons and chef hats,” Hawkins said.
It’s a team effort bringing the holiday spirit to a deployed location, Jeffcoat said.
The dining facility provides 2,000 to 2,500 meals during the holiday season. Combined with the other dining facilities on base, approximately 9,000 meals are served during this time.
Along with preparations for the holiday meal, members of the food services team continue their daily duties providing quality assurance to the dining facilities. These duties include temperature checks on the freezers, regular temperature checks on food being served on the line and ensuring that the appropriate food is served.
Quality assurance is provided to ensure public health standards are met.
“The best part of a project is seeing the other personnel in awe,” Jeffcoat said. “We appreciate it when patrons show their gratitude for our hard work.”