Photo Information

A 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit Marine cracks eggs into a mixing bowl during the preparation of breakfast aboard USS Mesa Verde April 4. Before most Marines and Sailors rise from their beds, there are a few who are already on the job ensuring the rest have a nutritious breakfast to wake up to. The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit is currently entering the third month of their deployment along with the Nassau Amphibious Ready Group and has tasked out several of their Marines and Sailors to man the lines on the messdecks on each ship.

Photo by Lance Cpl. David Beall

Fueling the fighters; messmen keep Marines moving

8 Apr 2010 | Lance Cpl. David Beall

They rise long before the sun and toil nonstop through reveille each morning and continue doing so, often unnoticed well after taps sounds each night.

A typical messman’s day aboard USS Mesa Verde is preparing food and keeping the mess decks in tip top condition so Marines and Sailors can enjoy healthy meals in a clean environment, something essential to keeping up morale on a seven-month deployment.

For some their time working the line is only a few weeks, for others months may be spent preparing and serving meals.

"Working as a messman is at times very tiresome, the days start early and hours can be long," said Lance Cpl. Matthew C. McGhee, rifleman, 3rd platoon, Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 24th MEU. “It’s a job that has to be done though, so we do our best to get it done.”

Also working these long hours and reporting to the mess decks every morning are the people responsible for cooking the food or "products" as they would call them.

These Marines and Sailors are trained specifically to cook the products that feed those aboard breakfast, lunch, dinner and mid-rats, which are served in the middle of the night for people on night shifts. They take pride in their job, ensuring every meal served is nutritious and tasteful, while at the same time providing a variety of meals for the troops to choose from.

"It's great when we walk around the mess hall and one of the Marines or Sailors will stop us and ask who cooked a certain product and comment on how good they thought it was," said Lance Cpl. Matthew C. Oliver, food service specialist, Combat Logistics Battalion 24, 24th MEU. "It's also a good feeling to know that we are responsible for feeding everyone else that is aboard the ship."

While on the mess decks, the Marines and Sailors, food specialists and messmen, work together as a single team to prepare these meals. The Marines have to learn how the Sailors work and vice versa, a true embodiment of the green-blue team.

"There are no individuals in food service, everyone must rely on each other to get the job done and to get the meals out, in order and on time," said Oliver.

The normal working shift for a Marine or Sailor on mess duty and in food service is a two day on, one day off schedule, with many taking that day off to workout, sleep and call home. Although this work schedule leaves a limited amount of time to take care of themselves, Marines and Sailors find a way to keep pushing on without complaint and stick together to get through it and do so efficiently.

"The Marines and Sailors are doing a fantastic job. They work long hours, but go above and beyond what is asked of them, and the mission would not be possible without the Marines and Sailors working on the mess decks," said Culinary Specialist 1st Class William E. Mireles, galley supervisor, USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19).