KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – During deployment, the key to a happy Soldier is a well-fed Soldier.
The Soldiers of Area Control Station 4 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, are very happy due to the efforts of their cooks Sgt. Wesley Holder and Pfc. Randy Smiley, both food service specialists assigned to Troop A, 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
"Being a part of food service, people will say it's the food you prepare that puts a smile on the Soldiers' faces," Holder said. "For me and my Soldier, the Soldiers are a big part of our morale and well being."
When Troop A arrived at ACS4, the cooks decided to change the dining ambiance at the small control station, said Holder.
Shortly after the Troop's arrival, Holder and the unit's senior enlisted leader 1st Sgt. Alex Garcia, discovered a kitchen trailer. The Troop A Soldiers refurbished the trailer, and attached a sanitation trailer.
Troop A Soldiers seem pleased with the new set up, said Holder, who serves approximately 100 Soldiers daily.
"We set it up like a drive-thru," Holder said. "We put up a menu, and the Soldiers come up to order breakfast, lunch and dinner. They tell us what they want, and we prepare it right there, hot off the grill."
The cooks created as wide a selection as possible using limited supplies and variety of ingredients.
"Out here, we just go with what we got," Smiley said. "We just put a lot of different stuff together. This makes it more fun, because you get to do what you want to do."
Being in charge also gives the cooks the opportunity to be customer friendly, said Holder.
"When the Soldiers come off of guard and there is hot soup and coffee waiting for them, and they come out the next morning and say, 'Sgt. Holder, that hot soup and coffee really did it for me,' that boosts my spirit," Holder said.
"The best part of my job is when the Soldiers come back to tell you how much they enjoyed the meal you made them," Smiley said.
Despite praise from their fellow Soldiers, sometimes being a cook can feel like a thankless job with long hours, said Smiley.
The cooks begin their days at 4:00 a.m., preparing breakfast for the ACS4 Soldiers and finish their day after the kitchen closes at 7:00 p.m.
Even though the hours are long and most of the time is spent standing, Smiley said he loves his job.
Holder said getting a chance to know the Soldiers on an individual level makes cooking in the field a more rewarding experience.
"In the field environment, you are with the Soldiers 365 days and you get to know these Soldiers and find out what they like and what they don't like," Holder said. "You become a family."
On Friday nights, Holder and Smiley try to make sure their Soldiers get a big meal.
"If you ask the Soldiers, they would say some of their favorite meals are the chicken and cheeseburger spaghetti, cheeseburger bacon macaroni and my tamale pie," Holder said. "The greatest part of cooking is using your imagination. If you have a good imagination you can cook anything."
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Pfc. Randy Smiley, a food service specialist assigned to Troop A, 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, flips enchiladas on the grill inside the kitchen trailer at Area Control Station 4 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Dec. 30, 2012. Smiley prepares breakfast, lunch and dinner for about 100 Soldiers every day.
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Pfc. Randy Smiley, a food service specialist assigned to Troop A, 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, scoops up a tuna melt off the grill for a Soldier's order at Area Control Station 4, Kandahar, Afghanistan, Dec 30, 2012. The chow line is set up like a drive-thru: Soldiers look at the menu, order their meal and food is served hot off the grill.
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Sgt. Wesley Holder, a food service specialist assigned to Troop A, 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, flips enchiladas on the grill inside the kitchen trailer at Area Control Station 4 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Dec. 30, 2012.