By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Eva-Marie Ramsaran
PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) (7/4/2009) -- Navy and Marine Corps personnel aboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) combined efforts cooking and serving more than 2,400 meals, June 29, while operating at sea off the coast of Southern California.
Bonhomme Richard, the flagship for the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group is at sea conducting its initial integration exercise with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Quick integration of the culinary specialists, Marine cooks, food service attendants, and messmen was crucial to a crew of nearly 3,000 hungry personnel.
"It's an organized chaos," said Culinary Specialist 1st Class Nino Villamor. "The first day of being underway is always a trial and error on how much food to prepare because we don't know how many people are going to eat or be in line."
The crew members and embarked Marines didn't disappoint. Crowds, noise and long chow lines were the norm, keeping the cooks and mess personnel busier than imaginable.
But such scenes will be the norm as the ARG/MEU team participates in three consecutive training evolutions prior to the start of a regularly scheduled deployment later this year.
"It's important to integrate with the ship and crew to learn your way around, get to know people and keep a positive attitude doing this type of work," said Cpl. Joseph Cahoon of the 11th MEU.
"With the planning, the food preparation and the execution of each meal, it is almost impossible to do it all in two hours," said Villamor. "But my guys in the kitchen work efficiently and they add their personal touch and flavors to each meal."
In order to meet mess deck requirements, each FSA and messman must participate in sanitation training, cleaning procedures, and food preparation procedures while underway. During training, both Marines and Sailors bring their unique skills and techniques to the kitchen; therefore the mess operates smoothly and in a timely manner.
Cahoon says, "By working in the mess decks with Navy Sailors, it takes a while to adjust to the new environment of being on the ship but I look to them for advice and I expect to learn from them."
By having the cooks in the kitchen, they give insight as to what kind of meals their fellow Marines would prefer. There are 20 cooks in the galley and 40 messmen and FSAs that take part in servicing the Bonhomme Richard's crew with not just hot meals but with great customer service.
"I take it as an opportunity to always serve and put on a good show because our rate is all about customer service and supporting the overall mission of the Navy," said Villamor.
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