Thursday, October 19, 2017

Face of Defense: Waterborne Army Cook Strives to Provide Culinary Excellence

By Army Staff Sgt. Melissa Parrish, U.S. Army Pacific

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii, Oct. 19, 2017 — The sun is rising over the ocean here as the Army logistic support vessel, the USAV CW3 Harold A. Clinger, prepares to depart for gunnery practice off the Hawaiian coast.

The Clinger’s mission is to transport training equipment for exercises involving soldiers and Marines across the Pacific region.

The winds are stiff and the waves are causing the vessel to sway. The Clinger’s cooks are sliding around the closet-size galley as they chop vegetables to prepare meals for the day ahead.

‘Welcome to the Boat Life’

Army Sgt. James Munar laughs as he slides into the wall with a spatula in one hand and a bowl in the other. He tells his newest kitchen helper, “Welcome to the boat life.”

Munar, who hails from Pomona, California, is a culinary specialist aboard the Clinger with the 605th Transportation Detachment, 8th Special Troops Battalion, 8th Theater Sustainment Command.

He said he loves his job as a crew member on one of only eight LSV’s in the Army, but admits he didn’t know what to expect when he arrived.

“I was overwhelmed on my first day. I didn’t even know the Army had boats and now I would be cooking on one of them,” Munar said. “I knew it was going to be different than a regular Army dining facility. It was a challenge at first, but I am used to it now. I just prepare the meals and sometimes I have to catch things as they fall and the boat is rocking.”

Creative Meals

Munar and his two helpers feed the 31 crew members breakfast, lunch and dinner while they are out to sea. He said he likes to get creative with meal options.

“In a dining facility things are pretty strict when it comes to menu items and seasonings you can use,” Munar said. “I like to get my soldiers involved and we all come up with meal ideas as a team. We experiment with different ingredients and try to feed the crew food they will love.”

The morale of the crew is often dependent on the quality of the meal they receive according to Army Sgt. 1st Class Donald Dinsmore, a watercraft operator and the detachment sergeant on the Clinger. He’s with the 605th Transportation Detachment, 8th Special Troops Battalion, 8th Theater Sustainment Command.

“If Sgt. Munar and his team serve a meal that is on point, you can just see the crew’s morale go up,” Dinsmore said. “People are happier and more willing to push through their tasks with a smile. We work in close quarters, so if the meal is great we get to thank him and tell him we loved it, and if it isn’t they let him know that, too.”

Munar serves his meals with pride knowing he was able to whip up something unique for the crew.

‘Eating Good Food is a Good Reward’

“When the crew tells me they loved dinner or thank me for the meal it gives me pride because I know that it didn’t just come off of a recipe card. It came from something my team cooked up,” Munar said. “I feel a responsibility to keep morale high on the boat and I try and do that every day. Everyone on this vessel works really hard and eating good food is a good reward.”

Munar also is the armorer aboard the Clinger, and he has designated tasks for emergency situations. He trains with the crew and pitches-in on other tasks in any way he can.
“I love this assignment,” Munar said. “If I can re-enlist to stay on the LSV-2, I would do it in a heartbeat.”

Puerto Rican Engineers Depart Kuwait Following Hurricane Maria

By Army Capt. Margaret Ziffer, 35th Infantry Division

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait, Oct. 19, 2017 — Soldiers with the Puerto Rico Army National Guard’s 215th Engineer Company are on their way home after a transfer of authority ceremony conducted with the Army Reserve's 306th Engineer Company from Farmingdale, New York, at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Oct. 16.

The transfer of authority was moved up a week to allow the 215th to return home to their families in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

“The 215th soldiers have shown extreme resiliency during these last few weeks of their deployment,” said Army Lt. Col. Jean Plamondon, commander of the 854th Engineer Battalion. “While they may have been physically here, we understand that their minds have been back home in Puerto Rico, rightfully so.”

Meterologists have said Hurricane Maria was the 10th-most intense Atlantic hurricane on record, causing catastrophic damage and a major humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico. Approximately a month after the hurricane hit the island, many residents still lack access to food, water and electricity.

Plamondon said that the inability to communicate with or help their family members back home had taken a toll on many of the guardsmen.

“Our prayers are with all of the soldiers and their families as they return home to rebuild their communities,” he said.

Several soldiers lost their homes and suffered severe property damage following the storm, which hit Puerto Rico Sept. 20. Fortunately, no one in the unit lost a family member or had any serious injuries reported.

Mission Complete, Going Home

Morale skyrocketed the day that the unit was told their departure date was being changed, said Army Capt. Luis Camacho Santiago, commander of the 215th Engineer Company. “The soldiers were happy [and] they were focused on doing whatever they needed to do to leave a week early.”

Although they were departing ahead of schedule, the unit completed its mission -- which included force protection, partnership engagements, structural assessments and health and safety assignments throughout the U.S. Central Command area of operations.

“As the commander of the unit, it was a challenge,” Camacho Santiago said. “We worked in six different countries, and completed over 40 projects. Every soldier is going back to Puerto Rico being a better soldier than they were, so it was a great learning experience for all of us.”

35th Infantry Division Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Newton was one of the division leaders in attendance at the transfer of authority ceremony. Made up of Kansas and Missouri Army National Guardsmen, the 35th Infantry Division has served as the 215th's division headquarters since June.

“We were in a unique position to adjust the [transfer of authority] date and get them back earlier than schedule,” Newton said. “The military is a family. So taking care of our members and their families is a priority.”

“There is a saying that the mission is always first, and it has been first,” Camacho Santiago said. But, he said, the Army determined that the return process could be expedited. “Being able to finish our missions -- being able to work until the last moment -- but also being released a week earlier, it meant to us that everyone in the chain of command heard about us and our families, and they were there to support us,” the captain said.

Concluding the ceremony, Plamondon welcomed the 306th Engineer Company to the team.

“To the soldiers of the 306th, you have very big shoes to fill, as the 215th set the bar high,” he said. “I have faith and confidence in the 306th to get the mission done and serve with the same esprit de corps and motivation that your predecessors have done.”

California Guard members pay respect to fallen firefighter

By Staff Sgt. Edward Siguenza

NAPA, Calif. - The California Army National Guard respectfully honored a volunteer firefighter who died in the Northern California wildfires.

An element from Cal Guard's 49th Military Police Brigade organized a last-minute formation at the Napa County Sheriff's Office for a Joint Remembrance Service, an act normally given to a service member. The quickly organized gesture followed an earlier unexpected formation, when Soldiers lined a street and saluted the fallen firefighter as a police convoy escorted him into the compound.

"It didn't matter if he was a civilian or not. He's here like we are, fighting fires. We're all in this together," said Col. Robert Paoletti, 49th commander. "This is the least we can do for someone who gave up his life."

Workers from the California Office of Emergency Services, volunteers and Sheriff Office administrators joined the brief ceremony. They united with 49th Chaplain (Capt.) David Evans as he recited a prayer for the departed. It was a military-led remembrance for a civilian on the front lines.

"That was really an honorable gesture by the California Guard," said Napa County Sheriff John Robertson. "They went out of their way to organize this, and (the victim) isn't even one of them or us. This was very respectful on the Guard's part."

The late ceremony was an idea by Spc. Kobi McGuire of the 330th Military Police Company. He was one of the Soldiers who saluted the passing convoy, and thought that wasn't enough for the victim.

"It felt like we had to do more. He just gave up his life. This (ceremony) was just the right thing to do," said McGuire, who approached his immediate leadership with the plan, and then they took it higher. "Everyone who serves this country should get the same respect."

The victim, who hails from Missouri, was driving a water truck, Robertson explained. Details of his death were not released.

"Everyone in the building wanted to come out and be a part of this, to feel this," said Kim Henderson, Napa Sheriff's Office administrator who was part of the ceremony. "It was something so honorable for the Soldiers to do."

More than 40 have died from the Northern California wildfires. More than 100,000 have been displaced, seeking temporary homes in shelters and evacuation sites as much as 75 miles away. More than a dozen simultaneous fires have scorched California's Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties.