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Combat cooks serve it up to Marines at outposts

22 Sep 2006 | Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis

If the Marines can’t come to the mess hall, then the mess hall will have to go to the Marines.

Food service specialists assigned to 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment set up a field-food facility so Marines can have a daily hot meal here.

“If Marines don’t get a good meal, they don’t have the energy to complete their tasks,” said Cpl. Melvin D. Carson Jr., a food service specialist with Headquarters and Service Company.

The 26-year-old from Virginia Beach, Va., is one of three self-proclaimed “combat cooks” who serve with the battalion under Regimental Combat Team 5.

Carson is the leader of the bunch.

He and his men make sure everyone at OP Falcons and other outposts have hot chow in their bellies.

Carson and his cooks wake up every morning to prepare food like steak, eggs and hash browns for hundreds of Marines and sailors. It’s not so much a duty as it is a chance to help out those Marines facing hostile fire every day.

“It’s our honor to cook for Marines, whether they’re in the rear or in the front lines,” Carson said.

He said the honor doesn’t come without a little sweating though. It’s a daily test of skill and leadership for Carson.

“I had to prove that I can run things without my staff noncommissioned officer here,” he said. “I try to teach my guys how I do things so they can learn it and pass on what I do.”

“I like cooking out here,” said Lance Cpl. Matthew R. Magnuson, also a food service specialist.  “This gives me a chance to apply what I learned when I was training in cooking school.”

The 20-year-old from Puyallup, Wash., said it’s a hard-working but rewarding job.

“Having them come back from chow and tell you chow was good feels good,” Magnuson said, “especially when I get a compliment on a certain food that I made for a large crowd. It makes me feel like I did what I was supposed to do.”

Magnuson isn’t the only one who feels that way.  The cooks have been told on many occasions how much the Marines enjoy their food.

“They put love into the food, good portions,” said Cpl. Nicholas J. Lindsay, a squad leader in the battalion.

The 22-year-old mortarman from Paramus, N.J., knows the importance of a wholesome meal after an operation.

“It's one thing coming off patrol, tired and having a No.12 Meal, Ready-to-Eat,” Lindsay said. “But tasting steak and eggs or chicken parmesan deliciously seasoned makes that much difference.”

Lindsay spends more than a week at a time here. He sees the work the combat cooks accomplish.

“They take care and pride into what they do even though they cook for other OPs,” he said. “I have respect for them in every aspect.”

The combat cooks stay humble. They’re just glad to make their fellow Marines happy.

“It feels good to know that after sweating in the kitchen making food that they appreciate our meals,” Carson said.