CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq -- ‘Barbecue Sundays’ have become something of a ritual for Marines of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment stationed at Camp Habbaniyah.
Sgt. Brian Taitingfong, a supply clerk with Headquarters and Support Company, uses a special marinade with onions and spices when he cooks T-bone steaks and ribs for his fellow leathernecks.
“It’s American beef with Guam home style marination,” said the 27-year-old from Guam.
But when asked about the ingredients, he remains tight-lipped.
“I can’t say,” he said. “It’s a secret.”
The battalion began making use of the many grills around the camp in early June as a morale-booster to finish out the long work week.
“We just wanted to have a day for morale for everybody to come by, grab something to eat, talk, have fun,” said Cpl. Shane Wilson, a 25-year-old radio operator from Parrigada, Guam.
The cookouts also provide a break from the usual selection of mess hall food and Meals Ready to Eat.
“I haven’t had food this good in six months,” said Lance Cpl. Benjamin Smith, a 20-year-old radio operator from Caneadea, N.Y. “I could smell it from the barracks.”
With six months of the deployment behind them, the flame-cooked food does not go unappreciated.
“Everybody’s loving the T-bones, hot dogs and burgers,” said Staff Sgt. Mathew Guest, the battalion’s mess hall manager. “Last year we did it, and it really boosted the morale. “We took the opportunity, especially toward the end of the deployment to seal the deal on Iraq.”
The 30-year-old from Eagle Point, Ore. is in charge of ordering food for all of Camp Habbaniyah. As the battalion mess hall manager, he also makes sure they have ice or freezers to pack the meat before preparing it.
“Usually they come and pick it up that morning,” Guest said. “Most companies have freezers, but they have to pick it up the same day.”
The Marines take turns manning the grill, testing their culinary skills against one another with sizzling, smoky results.
“I live by the grill,” said Lance Cpl. James Katanic, a motor transport operator with Combat Trains Platoon. “A lot of guys would love to cook out more, but don’t have the time, but we get it when we can and make the best of it.”
The 22-year-old from Akron, Ohio has been grilling since he was eleven years old. He said flavor is the reason Marines like to cook outdoors.
“Fire gives it a better taste,” he said. “It’s more of a raw taste than a domestic taste, I’d have to say.”
“It tastes like America,” Smith added.