CAMP DWYER, Afghanistan -- Culinary excellence is not the first thing to come to mind for most people when thinking about deployed service members in Afghanistan. However, food service specialists at Camp Dwyer strive to serve Marines and sailors a delicious meal three times a day at the Harvest Falcon dining facility.
Sergeant Anthony Zappone, a food service specialist with Combat Logistics Battalion 7, and Sgt. Eduardo Ayala, a food service specialist with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, worked together to improve the dining facility, incorporating new standards and teamwork for troops and civilian contractors.
Zappone was selected to be a mess chief for the Harvest Falcon because of his culinary efforts aboard Forward Operating Base Delaram II in Helmand province.
“At Forward Operating Base Delaram II, I added a hot lunch, a brunch every Monday that consisted of steak and eggs and made every effort to make the best food I possibly could for the three months I was there during January through April,” said Sgt. Anthony Zappone, a native of Philadelphia. “A lot of it has to do with my pride and because I care how people are treated. If I can make a person’s day better by something as simple as adding peaches to oatmeal, I am going to make that happen. It is a simple way to keep things different and keep smiles on troops’ faces,” said Zappone.
Upon arriving at Camp Dwyer, Zappone acquired three new refrigerators and added an office for handling shipments of food and necessities. Ayala reinforced the basics such as cleaning before and after dining hours to ensure all of the tables were clean and presentable, the cooking area was sanitary and all of the refrigerators and condiments were full.
“Sergeant Ayala is a great Marine and leader,” said Zappone. “To have him be on board with what I wanted to accomplish was a blessing. Two heads are always better than one. We made a great team because of the respect we had for one another. We challenged each other in every way which helped us become better leaders ourselves. Sergeant Ayala and I created a 21-day menu with themes for our meals such as spaghetti night, Taco Tuesday, Soul Food Thursday and All You Can Eat Monday.”
The food service Marines are in charge of making sure meals are served at the correct temperature, the facility is cleaned daily and food is cooked properly.
“Sergeant Zappone and Sgt. Ayala worked together to create their own menus, which gave service members more choices at every meal,” said Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Moreira, a mess chief with CLB-7 and a native of Bronx, New York. “They made the dining facility cleaner and more presentable. Instead of one or two choices of drinks, now we get monthly shipments of different sodas, juice and milk for service members to choose from. They raised the standards of the overall cleanliness of the facility as well. They see the bigger picture. This is a place for troops to relax and enjoy a quality meal and environment. I always hear Marines talk about coming here for the home-cooked-tasting meal.”
Although it was not easy, Zappone and Ayala never quit or said, “It’s good enough.”
“Accomplishing the mission is what our Marine Corps’ heritage is built on, and my mission was to offer the best service my Marines and I possibly could,” said Zappone.
Today the Harvest Falcon offers three hot meals a day with multiple main entrees for service members to choose from because of Ayala and Zappone.
“I knew I had something better to offer,” said Ayala, a native of Richmond, California. “I wanted to make a difference that would affect the service members and civilians at Camp Dwyer in a positive way.”
The Marines constantly enforce correct procedures despite their different cooking and operating styles. A heavy significance is placed on cleanliness and thoroughness in the preparation of food.
Continuous mentoring basic knowledge to improve and proficiency is a goal, too. They not only focus on learning new things from each other, but they reinforce standard procedures.
“I recognize the importance of the basics, and I am confident the Harvest Falcon is one of the best dining facilities in a combat environment run by Marines,” said Zappone. “From the storeroom to the galley, the management to the workers, I know it is the best I have ever been in that is located in a field environment from the four times I have been deployed during my eight-year career. The Marines are very important to me. I put in the hours with my Marines because I care and I will never stop. The feeling of seeing change for the better keeps me going.”
Zappone redeployed back to the States in July after completing a seven-month tour in Afghanistan.