USS RONALD REAGAN, At Sea (NNS) -- Since USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) left San Diego Dec. 6 to participate in Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) 06-2, one of the hardest working groups of Sailors aboard Reagan has been the Supply Department's S-2 Food Service Division.
S-2 has been serving up thousands of meals to more than 5,000 Sailors during JTFEX 06-2.
"Our day usually starts at 0600 underway, consisting of a galley turnover with the night watch and serving breakfast to the crew," said Culinary Specialist 1st Class Anthony Myers, of Port Arthur, Texas. "A typical galley watch can be about 15 hours, turning over at 2100; however, some days can go on for 18 hours, depending on the workload for that day."
According to Myers, the average is between 15,000 and 18,000 meals per day with the air wing embarked. With that many meals to prepare, one would assume that the galley has a large watch section.
The aft galley watch section consists of 11 Culinary Specialists (CS) and 11 food service attendants (FSA). That works out to an average ratio of only one CS and one FSA for every 273 people on the ship, making food preparation time a valuable commodity during underway periods.
"Some of the menu items that used to be time consuming, such as stuffed peppers, lasagna and enchiladas, are pre-cooked, which not only saves time in preparation, it also saves in manpower as well," said Myers.
One of the most demanding jobs in the galley is working in the kettle area, often referred to as the "coppers." According to Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Sabrina Fabela of San Antonio, "an average of five menu items, like gravies, soups, sauces and vegetables are prepared for each meal in the coppers."
However, there are days when there as few as two, or as many as eight items are prepared in the coppers. "On days when there is a heavy demand on the coppers, they are for items like turkey or chicken pot pie, stews and spaghetti," said Fabela.
It's not just the workload that makes the galley a difficult place to work, but also the working conditions. While most of the crew has the benefit of air conditioning, the galley, with all the ovens, griddles, skillets and coppers, can get extremely hot.
"In the copper pit, the average temperature is 75 to 80 degrees, but when all the coppers are used, and there are numerous menu items being turned out, it can go up to 90 to 95 degrees. If we lose the ventilation due to a casualty or a drill during General Quarters, it can go well over 100 degrees," said Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Shondel Bryant of San Diego.
Another important area of food service is the vegetable preparation area, or "veg prep," as it is known by the galley staff. These duties consist of washing, peeling and cutting various salad bar items to make sure Sailors have healthy food choices during JTFEX.
"Veg prep can prepare more than 300 pounds of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots daily," said Culinary Specialist Seaman Tamara Stuck, of Palmdale, Calif. According to Stuck, even in today's advancing food service industry, vegetable preparation is one area that still requires extensive manual labor.
But even with the hectic pace of JTFEX, there's still time for a little creativity in the kitchen. The culinary specialists still take the time to create some unique garnishes on the serving lines.
Despite the grueling hours and all the heat, Reagan's S-2 Division is still managing to put smiles on the faces of hungry Reagan Sailors.
According to Myers, "It is the satisfaction that I have improved the crew's morale, and having a genuine passion for cooking." Both Fabela and Bryant say "It's working with a team. Everybody helps everybody."
For Stuck, however, it's a little different. "I used to work in the bakery, so my job satisfaction was having the artistic freedom to be creative in cake decorating," she said.
For related news, visit the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76/.