SAVANNAH, Ga. -- When Marines and sailors of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) arrived at the Air National Guard Combat Readiness Training Center (CRTC) in Savannah, Ga. to begin Training in an Urban Environment Exercise, or TRUEX, their expectations of a meal may have been a Jimmy Dean sandwich or an MRE under a field tent. Instead, they found a fully functional dining facility manned by an integrated staff working around the clock to produce four hot meals a day in support of TRUEX XXXIX.
The chow hall is located in building 262 of the CRTC and stands within three to four minutes walking distance from most billeting as well as the Combat Operations Center (COC) and Landing Force Operations Center (LFOC).
In addition to full, hot breakfasts, lunch and dinner, the chow hall offers Midnight Rations (MIDRATS), which allow Marines and sailors to catch a later meal.
The facility itself projects a nice image of dining in the field, boasting carpeted floors, comfortable booths and stools, televisions, as well as a fully-stocked fruit and salad bar.
The type of food being served is called B Modified Rations (B-MODS), which are capable of field travel and are served hot, usually under a tent. However, the CRTC facility has afforded diners a more comfortable atmosphere while eating, as well as providing the cooks with more capabilities.
"Hot meals and a nice facility help with morale," said GySgt. Bill Savoy, staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge for the Aviation Combat Element (ACE) section of cooks. There is a considerable amount of work that goes into the actual meal that the Marine or Sailor sees on his plate, he added.
Every few days Marines take trucks down to Fort Stewart, Ga. and run enough food supplies back to feed 570 Marines and Sailors a day. The food is then prepared and served by a permanent staff of cooks that include six from the ACE, three from the Battalion Landing Team (BLT), three from the MEU Service Support Group, and three from the Command Element.
There are also 16 additional messmen loaned out from each section of the MEU who work on a rotating basis throughout a twenty-four-hour period in order to provide additional support.
This cross section of the MEU's components in the chow hall has provided cooks the opportunity to work with one another as well as learn new aspects of their military occupational specialty.
For LCpl. April North of Rumford, Maine, TRUEX has given her the opportunity to practice her baking skills.
"This is the first time I've actually gotten to bake at work," she said as she prepared the desserts for the evening meal.
For other cooks, working with the B-MODS was a new experience.
"I have never worked with B-Rats before," said PFC Kristin Johnson of Scranton, Pa., "But all the corporals and Staff NCOs have been great in helping me out."
"It has been a great training experience for everyone involved," said Cpl. Tom Storey, a MEU cook and Lake Placid, N.Y. native. "For the individual training of the cooks and for the MEU as a whole."
Ultimately, the Marines working the chow hall know they have an important role in the overall scheme of TRUEX.
"Primarily, we are here in support of the MEU," says GySgt. Barrington Bruce, the noncommissioned officer-in -charge of BLT cooks, and acting mess hall manager. "If an exercise runs late we can be flexible with our hours."
With all the activity surrounding TRUEX, the cooks and workers in the chow hall will undoubtedly remain busy and challenged throughout the exercise.
Follow 24th MEU predeployment on their website at www.usmc.mil/24meu.