Hey everyone! My name's Ian and I'm a food operations specialist in the United States Army. I've been in a little over 2 years, recently got medically sent back from my deployment to Afghanistan and now I'm back home and baking up a storm. I actually had a little program set up for Afghanistan where I was going to make cakes for all the soldiers' birthdays in my unit and other units attached to us. Food is such a morale booster overseas, especially in combat environments and it really, for the lack of a better word, sucked to get sent back home. I was planning on making fondant cakes (due to the fact the fondant frosting will last longer and won't melt as quick as buttercream in the high temps) and having other soldiers to come help out make birthday cakes to relieve stress and have some fun.
My favorite quote when I was in the field was, "I have enough food to serve an army." Haha I really did.. And by the way, food in the army isn't as bad as you might think it is. Food safety standards are extremely strict. I had a job at Dunkin Donuts and I realized military food safety standards are a hell of a lot stricter than civilian food safety standards. By all means, Dunks had good food safety standards but the military has a few more standards that would upset a lot of food establishments. Food operations in the United States Army and Marine Corps go to Ft. Lee, VA for their culinary training and I was blown away on the level of the food we made. The techniques in cooking they taught us and the amount of recipes we made (all from scratch) were incredible. There's a section of the culinary arts building dedicated to the "Advanced Culinary" section of the military. From my knowledge the United States Army is the only branch able to enter this honored unit. These soldiers are usually legitimate chefs civilianside and make outstanding food. I had the opportunity to sneak into a few classes because I expressed such a high interest to join them in the future. The food they made was high end food you would not expect the military to produce. Outside the classrooms they had medals the Army Culinary Team has won in the Culinary Olympics. The United States Army has won a lot of gold medals compared to other countries which made me proud. Generally these soldiers cook for high ranking military and government personnel. Don't get me wrong, if there's an incoming mortar attack these guys will give you a run for your money but they'll also make eye candy food that tastes good too. That also goes for the entire culinary branch of the United States Army. In the field supplies are limited and we cook from UGR-As, UGR-Bs and will give soldiers MREs if they're going outside the wire. An MRE is a packaged meal that is air tight, has a high amount of calories and overall there's a large variety of different MREs you can get. A UGR-A/B is virtually just a larger packaged meal meant for cooks to make out in the field. I'm going to be completely honest and tell you that most of the packaged food is actually good. There are a lot of dedicated people constantly changing the food the military eats, updating it and improving it. My unit is actually given a lot of new entrees that are released from a group in Nadick, MA. Some are a hit and miss but most of the time they're pretty good! When we're back on base we cook in what we call garrison. Garrison cooking is where cooks get their chance to shine. Generally cooks will garnish the food, have a salad line and have desserts organized in a neat fashion. Garrison cooking is what it's about. It's demanding, the standards are high but the food is good
Baking has been such a huge part of my life and that's just a personal experience I'd like to share with you guys! I'm really hoping to learn a lot from this site and I'm always up to meet new people!