Feeding sailors on a US aircraft carrier is an art of war
By Mazen Mahdi Aug 20, 2007, 9:44 GMT
Manama, Bahrain - When Roman writer and military strategist Flavius Vegetius Renatus wrote in his Military Institutions of the Romans, in AD 378, that famine causes greater havoc in an army than the enemy, he never envisioned how the US Navy would address that concern in the 21st century.
For the USS Enterprise, America's first nuclear powered aircraft carrier that went into service in 1961, the feeding its sailors is one the largest daily operation on board.
The carrier, with some 5,000 sailors on board, is currently sailing through the Gulf supporting the US military occupation of Iraq and ongoing maritime security operations.
'We keep a food stock worth between 1.5 to 2.8 million US dollars on board and we get replenishments every 7 to 10 days,' USS Enterprise Food Service Officer Ken Howard told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. 'An average load would cost me 1.8 million US dollars worth of food.'
The ship's culinary operation also supplies the smaller ships in the battle group if needed. Altogether, the USS Enterprise, or 'BIG E' as it is also known, goes through 3,000 pounds of fried chicken per meal, along with 8,000 pounds of bacon, about 6,000 dozen of eggs, 24,000 pounds of hamburgers, and 44,000 pounds of hot dogs a month.
The sailors consume 12,000 pounds of rice, 3,000 pounds of fish, about 8,000 pounds of steak, about 8,000 pounds of fresh potatoes, and 8-9,000 pounds of lettuce per month.
They also go through 1,200 gallons of soda drinks, 1,800 gallons of milk, and 4,000 gallons of orange juice.
The Big E bake shop goes through more than 400 pounds of flour a day and 120 pounds of sugar, allowing it to make enough bread for 6,000 people.
There are six large store rooms for food on board the Big E, which has five food serving centres.
Howard said the ship's menus, which have been graded by dietitians in the Navy, will be changing to a healthier one in December.
'We are on a 21-day cycle menu, which repeats at the end of the cycle, but starting December the carrier will switch to a healthier 14-day cycle menu,' he said.
There will be more healthy food on the main entrée with baked chicken, baked fish, veggies, and cold salad bar.
The switch to the 14-day cycle menu will usher in a cutback on the number of days where fast food is offered to sailors, which at the moment is offered on a daily bases.
The improvements the Navy has introduced over the past few years are not limited to the culinary arts offered to sailors on board the ship, but also to advancing the skills of those working in the kitchens.
Last year the Navy's Culinary Specialist School relocated from Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, to the Training Support Center at Great Lakes, Illinois, after three years of planning.
The move ended a 10-year partnership with the Air Force, which shared its culinary training facilities between both seamen and airmen, as the Navy advanced its training to include computer based training and hands-on schooling more reflective of culinary shipboard responsibilities.
In addition to the training the culinary specialists get, they are offered the chance to be accredited as chefs in the civilian sector while on deployment.
The skills and training the Navy gives to the specialists means that the private sector has to spend less time and money training the sailors when they leave for the civilian jobs, Howard said.
He said chefs who serve in the Navy will be disciplined, well trained, and mature, with experience enabling them to perform well under pressure.
One of the key programmes the Navy uses to help sailors earn their civilian accreditation is the Chef-at-Sea Programme, which on the Big E is taught by chef Ed Brown, from the Florida-based First Coast Technical Institute.
Brown's four classes give the culinary specialists the opportunity to earn up to 30 college credits and certification while they are on deployment.
The civilian contractor, who is on his second deployment with Big E, has 59 students on his roaster and said he is proud to be working again with the young sailors.
'I see young guys in the industry but the sailors are more disciplined and they work hard under difficult circumstances for 12 or 14 hours a day in galleys where it could be a 110 degrees,' he said.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur