MARJAH, Afghanistan -- According to the United States Census Bureau, this year the average American will consume 73 pounds of poultry, 110 pounds of red meat, 196 pounds of flour and cereal products, 249 pounds of eggs and 606 pounds of dairy products.
Multiply those numbers by an entire Marine Corps battalion, with seven individuals undertaking the task of feeding them, and the thought alone can seem daunting.
Thanks to the hard work and dedication of 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment’s food specialists, that task has been turned into a mission filled with pride and professionalism serving up more than just food, but morale as well.
Each morning, food specialists with 2/9 wake up and begin their daily routine, prepping and providing more than 2,500 meals for Marines and sailors across their area of operation in and around Marjah. That equates to over half a million meals served by the time they head home.
Lance Cpl. Bryan A. Watson, a food service specialist with 2/9, made it perfectly clear that his job was no cakewalk, stressing the fact that he and his fellow Marines have been putting in countless hours making sure everything is up to par.
Lance Cpl. Tyriek J. Clark, a communications specialist with 2/9, who originally came to Afghanistan to work radios, couldn’t agree more.
After volunteering to step out of his original job position and help feed the 1,500-plus service members, Clark quickly realized the stereotype Marines have for food specialist was far from true.
"A lot of Marines think it’s a cut-and-dry job. Well, that’s not the case," said Clark. "Every day we are constantly improving trying to make this place better. We’re pushing 16-18 hour work days."
Since their arrival, food specialists with 2/9 have made a number of improvements, from expanding the chow hall to include more seats, to making little adjustments to ensure every meal is hot.
"We take our time and make sure that the serving trays are nice and warm," said Clark. "We make sure that the meat is nice and tender and all the vegetables are well done."
Taking into consideration all the improvements and positive feedback, Clark boasted about his team’s hard work and dedication.
"I’m not trying to sound full of the battalion," he said, "but from what I’ve heard, the Marines say we have the best chow going."
Watson took time to explain that with the amount of activity Marines and sailors are conducting out here it’s important they get proper nutrition from their food.
"The big picture is we’re here to keep Marines and sailors well fed and in the fight," said Watson, from Peoria, Ariz. "We’re here to make sure they’re getting the proper nutrition so they have what they need to go on those long patrols and convoys without being malnourished."
One of the biggest effects food has on a unit is the fact that a solid, good tasting meal can go along way said Sgt. David Tomlin, staff non-commissioned officer in charge of food operations for 2/9.
According to Tomlin, 2/9 is one of the first battalions in the AO to be approved for fresh fruits and meats. He said that it took them a while, but with a little perseverance the approval went through.
Recently they sent some fresh fruit out to one of the line companies and the feedback they got was astounding.
Seeing how much of an impact good food has on a unit, Tomlin said. He and his team will continue to do whatever it takes to make sure everyone at 2/9 has a good meal to keep spirits high.
"Chow is morale," said Tomlin. "And it’s true! If you think about it, what does a Marine really want out here? Sleep, food and a shower. We’re here to make sure they’re getting that food."