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.”
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.”