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(left) Lt. Col. Brett A. Bourne, the commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, and Col. Saleh Mahdi Shaheen al-Alwani, the district chief of police for Ramadi, enjoys a meal cooked by the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines’ food service specialist at the battalion’s command operating center on Camp Ramadi June 25. “It’s great to host the Iraqis,” said Staff Sgt. Van Jenkins, a food service specialist with 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, and a certified chef. “It shows a great gesture of friendship. Food is one of those special things that brings people together and allows everybody to just sit down and talk about anything.” (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Casey Jones)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Casey Jones

1/9 Cooks serve up motivation

9 Jul 2008 | Lance Cpl. Casey Jones

RAMADI, Iraq (July 9, 2008) – A Marine’s morale is, at times, a direct reflection of a food service specialist’s job performance. During a deployment, the meals food service specialists, or “cooks” as they’re more commonly called, are sometimes the only freshly cooked meal for Marines stationed away from their main operating base.

This holds especially true for cooks with 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, who are charged with preparing and cooking meals for Marines on a daily basis, grilling an assortment of dishes for special guests, and helping to supply the Marines with the energy needed to complete their daily missions in Iraq.

“Our job is important because we give the Marines the closest thing to a home-cooked meal,” said Lance Cpl. Alfred Lindquist, a food service specialist with the battalion, who is currently cooking for Marines at a joint security station inside the city of Ramadi. “The Marines usually tell us they’re very happy with the food we cook. They joke with us every once in a while and say ‘Hey, I can’t believe you made that!’”

Senior Marines with food service are in charge of distributing the food their cooks are serving Marines. They regularly check the quality of the food being served, as well as inquire about Marines’ satisfaction.

“We issue chow out to the Marines and always try to make sure they stay motivated while they’re out here,” said Staff Sgt. Van Jenkins, a food service specialist with the battalion, and a certified chef. “Every time we go outside the wire, we constantly check up on the food supply and gauge how well the Marines are eating.”

The cooks almost always hold a cookout on major holidays to help sustain Marines’ morale. For the Fourth of July, the cooks grilled various meats and played music to entertain the Marines.

“We did a pretty big cookout for the Fourth,” Jenkins said. “We had a lot of food out there for them such as steaks, barbequed beef briskets, chicken, sweet potato pie and a whole lot more.”

The cooks are not only responsible for cooking food for the Marines, but also for any special guests the battalion may entertain.  Frequently, Iraqi tribal leaders, government leaders and police precinct chiefs come to Camp Ramadi for briefings or social engagements.

“It’s great to host the Iraqis,” Jenkins said. “It shows a great gesture of friendship. Food is one of those special things that brings people together and allows everybody to just sit down and talk about anything.”

Although the Marines are thousands of miles away from their families, the cooks with the battalion are doing their best to make the distance seem a bit smaller, while also embracing the culture gap between the Iraqis and Coalition forces.