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Effingham soldier among Army's top cooks at Fort Riley

POSTED: March 29, 2008 5:00 a.m.
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CW4 Jasper Lee, third from the right, and the rest of the staff at the Main Post Dining Facility at Fort Riley, Kan., were named the best in the Army.

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What does is it take to be one of the best Army food service facility’s in the world? Good food? Sure. Good service? You bet. Cleanliness? Absolutely. But most of all, it takes personnel willing to go the extra mile to take care of their customers.

That’s what the staff at Fort Riley, Kan.’s Main Post Dining Facility does on a daily basis, said Chief Warrant Officer Jasper Lee, Fort Riley installation food manager, which may be one of the reasons they recently received the highest award an Army food service facility can get — the Connelly Award.

Jasper and Veronica Lee Jr. celebrated his promotion to Chief Warrant Officer 4 on March 1. Lee has 24 years of military service, and he is the son of Frances Nix-Jefferson of Clyo and Jasper Lee Sr. of Springfield.

After competing and winning  at the post and regional levels in the small garrison category, Fort Riley’s Main Post DFAC was among five worldwide chosen to compete for the Connelly Award.

The annual award is co-sponsored by the Department of the Army and the International Food Service Executive Association.

Named after former IFSEA president Philip A. Connelly, the award began in 1968 to recognize outstanding Army food service on the job. The competition is an incentive to help sustain and enhance food service throughout the Army.

An evaluation committee consisting of one IFSEA civilian evaluator and two military representatives — a senior warrant officer and a sergeant major from the U.S. Army Quartermaster Center and School at Fort Lee, Va. — was on post Dec. 6 to inspect the Main Post DFAC’s operations. The competition was tough at the DA level, said Main Post dining facility manager Doris Fontimayor.

The facility competed against four other top small garrison dining facilities worldwide including facilities in Germany, Korea, Fort Polk, La., and Camp Rudder, Fla. And even though the Main Post DFAC has been runner-up for the award at the DA level several times in the past, Fontimayor said, this is the first time the facility has actually won the award.

“We are very excited about winning the award. It was well-deserved. It is always a tough competition, because we are competing with the best. Our folks have done a lot to prepare for it. I am just glad we finally got it,” she said.

Lee agreed, saying the award was well-deserved and crediting the dining facility’s staff for making food service a priority.

“Doris is one of the best managers on Fort Riley. She puts in the additional hour before work and after and she’ll work on a Saturday. Things like that really let you know food service is priority on her list,” Lee said. “And, taking care of soldiers is number one. Everybody knows you’re only as good as your personnel. Doris does an excellent job. When you talk about caring and training food service personnel, you are looking at one of the experts on Fort Riley.”

With many food service requests from organizations such as Scout troops, retirees and military groups, Lee said, the Main Post DFAC staff does its best to accommodate everyone.

“It is a team effort and they have a phenomenal team,” he said. “A lot of things they do here, they are a little modest. They say, ‘that’s our job’ and ‘that’s what we do,’ but they take two or three steps forward just to do a little more here. They are very humble. You just give them a ‘great job’ and a pat on the back and they just continue to march.”

One example of the staff’s willingness to go the extra mile was during the December ice storm that knocked out power to more than 80 percent of the homes on post, Lee said.

Through the use of a backup generator, staff at the DFAC worked around the clock, providing meals to shelters operating on Fort Riley, as well as providing meals to anyone who came into the dining facility.

“Once they all found out we were open and we were able to support them, they all started coming in here,” Fontimayor said. “We supported not just military and DA civilians, we supported the greater community of Fort Riley, whether they had an ID card or not. We didn’t turn anyone away.”

Now, Lee said, the Main Post DFAC will be recognized worldwide for its efforts in providing food service excellence.
“Now it will be known that Fort Riley has the best dining facility worldwide for the Fiscal Year 2008. We set the standards for food service,” he said.

The awards ceremony will be held April 5 in Denver, in conjunction with the annual IFSEA Convention. Several members of the Main Post DFAC will be in attendance to accept the award.

O’Dell is a staff writer for the Public Affairs Office for the 1st Infantry Division based at Fort Riley, Kan.

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