The dining facility at the 153rd Airlift Wing re-opened after being closed since April 2016. A deployment of services personnel prompted suspension of meal services and closure of the DFAC during scheduled drills.
Weekend meals of enchiladas, tacos, chicken fried steak and salad were served to patrons who have not been able to dine on-base for more than two years.
“It was great to be able to grab a hot meal without leaving the base” said Master Sgt. Sarah Austin, personnel systems manager, 153rd Airlift Wing. “Even with my restricted meal plan, I was able to enjoy some good food and good company.”
A shortage of services personnel kept the DFAC closed after Airmen returned from deployment. With limited resources, the services flight concentrated on lodging, fitness and readiness programs in order to support the wing mission.
“The upgrade of kitchen equipment allows the services flight to do more with less manpower,” said Senior Master Sgt. Anthony Ramirez, services superintendent, 153rd Force Support Squadron. “It has also allows us to offer more options to the Airmen of the 153rd Airlift Wing.”
Ramirez utilized the closure to secure funding to replace thirty year old equipment with efficient commercial-grade appliances using end-of-year funding. He identified more than $110,000 in equipment to replace including a commercial stove, combination oven, pizza oven, industrial mixer and deep fryer.
“Now, our Airmen can train on some of the same equipment, which is used by the commercial food service industry,” said Ramirez.
In addition to operating the new equipment, services personnel complete industry certification for food safety and handling. The ServSafe training and certification ensures that food handlers practice basic food safety, personal hygiene, cleaning and sanitation. Services Airmen also practice preventative measures for cross-contamination and allergens, as well as observing safe food time and temperature requirements.
Commercial Wi-Fi and new soup and salad bars were also added to enhance the dining experience.
“Sharing a meal is a great way to build morale and to just catch up with the people you work with,” said Capt. Sheila Sells, sustainment services officer in charge, 153rd Force Support Squadron. “Our DFAC is a great place to network and see people you might not normally see during a drill weekend.”
Most Air National Guard dining facilities are considered a legacy system, which are intended to provide food service during contingencies and training. Active-duty Air Force facilities like F. E. Warren AFB have undergone the Food Transformation Initiative which provides dining similar to what is found on college campuses.
Equipment modernization and industry standard training and certification will keep the 153rd Airlift Wing DFAC serving Airmen into the future.