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Feeding the Soldiers in Iraq

During their deployment to Iraq, the soldiers of the Field Feeding Platoon (FFP) of Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC), 296th Brigade Support Battalion (BSB), 3d Brigade, 2d Infantry Division, from Fort Lewis, Washington, supported troops in 12 different locations in northern Iraq. They operated in environments that ranged from austere at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Pacesetter in Samarra to urban in Mosul and Tal Afar. This required them to adapt continually to an ever-changing operating environment and enemy.

The FFP consists of a platoon leader, a platoon sergeant, and six field feeding teams (FFTs), each of which has a habitual relationship with a battalion in the brigade. The FFTs range in size from 9 to 19 soldiers, and each has an E–7 noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC). For the duration of the brigade’s deployment, the FFTs were detached from the company and attached to the 296th BSB to simplify movement planning and provide the battalions with greater flexibility.

The feeding standard is that soldiers will be provided three quality meals daily. When units deploy under combat conditions or in support of contingency plans, they will initially consume the meal, ready-to-eat (MRE). As the theater matures and METT–T allows, soldiers will also consume a variety of group feeding rations. Among these rations are the T- (heat-and-serve), B-, and A-Rations.
— FM 10–1, Quartermaster Principles

FOB Pacesetter

Initially, the brigade occupied FOB Pacesetter near Samarra, which was an austere base with no facilities. Every FFT was used to prepare meals. The BSB consolidated two FFTs to operate one dining facility, and the other teams ran separate dining facilities. Battalions often required separate feeding cycles or times because of their mission requirements.

When the entire brigade was located on site, the BSB FFT had to feed an extremely high headcount. The combined number of BSB soldiers, brigade troops, and transients fed in the BSB regularly exceeded 1,000. To meet this demand, the BSB FFT had to use KCLFF–Es (kitchens, company level, field feeding-enhanced) from other FFTs to supplement its containerized kitchen (CK).

Dining facilities were established in an aircraft hangar and in fest tents. Tables and chairs, which were contracted from Kuwait, did not arrive for several weeks after the facilities had been established. Lighting in the large facilities was insufficient, so a local contractor was used to provide more lights.

FOB Food Service Operations

When the brigade replaced the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) in Mosul, it spread out to 11 locations. Four sites were located within the city, two sites south of the city, and five sites near the city of Tal Afar, which was approximately 100 kilometers northwest of Mosul. The FFP provided meals at field sites and contractor-operated dining facilities. Contracted operations were provided by Halliburton Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR).

The 1–37 Field Artillery Battalion and the 296th BSB were located at FOB Marez near the Mosul Airfield. The dining facility there was run by KBR. The FFTs assigned to those battalions, representing the commands on the base, provided quality assurance and control.

The 1–23 Infantry Battalion operated out of FOB Blickenstaff and had one of three operational CK sites. The 1–23’s FFT served 300 soldiers daily
and maintained a ration cycle of continental breakfasts, cold meat sandwich lunches, and hot dinners. The meals were served in a nearby building that had been transformed into a dining facility.

FOBs Regulars, Freedom, and Fulda had KBR-run dining facilities. FFTs for the 5–20 Infantry Battalion at FOB Regulars, the 2–3 Infantry Battalion at FOB Freedom, and the 1–14 Cavalry Squadron at FOB Fulda worked in the dining facilities as quality assurance and control personnel.

Rations were pushed daily from FOB Marez to FOB Patriot to support the remainder of the 2–3 Infantry Battalion for their dinner meals. FOB Patriot used the same ration cycle as the 1–23 Infantry Battalion to reduce the number of daily ration convoys and minimize the FFTs’ exposure to enemy contact.

1–14 Cavalry Squadron FFT Operations

The 1–14 Cavalry Squadron’s FFT was the most spread out FFT, operating five locations simultaneously. The remote locations operated by the 1–14 Cavalry Squadron in the Tal Afar area included the brigade retransmission (RETRANS) site on top of Sinjar Mountain and Charlie Rock Base within the city. Initially, rations were delivered every other day, but, as headcounts stabilized and ration inventories increased, ration pushes were required only once every 7 days.

The Sinjar RETRANS dining facility consisted of one KCLFF–E, with 2 operators feeding 12 personnel in a makeshift dining facility. The team balanced their time between preparing meals and assisting with guard duty requirements. Although FFT personnel typically do not pull guard duty, the small number of personnel at Sinjar required every soldier at the site to help.

At Fort Stark, two personnel provided meals in a makeshift dining facility consisting of one CK and the FFT’s “reefer” (refrigerated van). They fed 60 to 80 soldiers of a cavalry troop daily. The CK was used because no suitable facility was available for setting up a KCLFF–E.

During operations at Ar Rabi’ah, which is located on the Syrian border, two FFT operators fed a troop (-) element using one KCLFF–E. Initially, soldiers ate in their sleeping areas; however, this area underwent considerable renovation and eventually received its own dining facility.

Company C, 5–20 Infantry Battalion, operated a base within the city limits of Tal Afar. Two FFT personnel fed the troops there using one KCLFF–E and a civilian-contracted freezer unit.

The dining facility at Aggie College, located south of Mosul, included a CK, a reefer, and a KCLFF–E and was operated by four FFT personnel who served 60 soldiers daily. The Aggie College facility was run by the 5–20 Infantry Battalion’s FFT initially and later by a combination of personnel from the 2–3 Infantry Battalion, the 1–37 Field Artillery Battalion, and the 296th BSB. Similar to Ar Rabi’ah, this site underwent considerable renovation and improvement throughout the duration of 3–2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team’s time in Mosul.

Lessons Learned

The lessons learned during the 296th BSB’s deployment to Iraq include the following—

• Equipment (tables, chairs, and light sets) are required for each dining facility. Before deploying, the FFP must plan to provide this equipment for each supported battalion. Since the number of dining facilities is based on the number of operational sites that the unit will operate, this figure may change. However, it is important to have a basic plan.

• The BSB HHC should plan for up-armoring of FFT equipment. This can be done either by acquiring the materials and pushing them to the remote FFTs or by ensuring that the supported battalions’ HHCs account for the FFT equipment in their vehicle-hardening figures. The methods used should be determined early in the operation to avoid confusion and duplication of effort.
• The BSB HHC must be prepared to cross-level FFT personnel to provide more food service specialists than the supported unit is authorized when needed.
• Careful, detailed coordination with the BSB Support Operations (SPO) Section is a must. The HHC commander will need the SPO’s assistance with enforcing certain personnel and equipment redistributions within the supported battalions.

• The BSB HHC commander should have a close working relationship with each supported battalion’s HHC in order to maintain awareness of the status of equipment and personnel. The HHCs provide invaluable assistance in hardening vehicles and providing convoys to the remote locations.

Supporting a large number of troop-feeding locations in Iraq appeared to be a daunting task at first. It was only through the creativity of each FFT NCOIC and careful planning by the FFP leader that the company was able to succeed in its mission. ALOG

Captain Michael K. Pavek is the Commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 296th Brigade Support Battalion, 3–2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, at Fort Lewis, Washington. He has a bachelor’s degree in international business from St. John’s University in Minnesota.