Tennessee Guardsmen cook up some Southern Hospitality
Story and photos by 1st Lt. DesiRee Nicely
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE Q-WEST, Iraq — As the turnover of Contingency Operating Base Q-West to Iraqi forces draws near, many conveniences and luxuries once available to U.S. Soldiers have started to disappear. But thanks to the Soldiers with “Battle Axe” Troop, 1st Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), troops won’t be eating prepackaged Meals, Ready to Eat three times per day.
Battle Axe Troop has picked up tongs and spatulas to cook for the remaining Soldiers and civilians at COB Q-West until the food runs out or the base is turned over—whichever comes first.
Cooking was not part of their training for this deployment. The unit came to Iraq to conduct convoy security missions, which eventually changed to a force protection mission, one they still perform.
After long shifts in the heat, wearing body armor, Battle Axe Soldiers stand in front of a grills and cutting boards to prepare food for about 200 people per day. The detail is voluntary, but never short on help.
“We usually start (preparing) at 2 p.m. every day,” said Staff Sgt. Walter Dix, a member of the quick reaction force with Battle Axe Troop and a Nashville, Tenn., native. “That involves organizing the trailer, getting the grill ready and laying out the food. I’m (part of a quick reaction force) right now, but I try to come and help out.”
Sgt. Danny Toliver, also a member of the quick reaction force with “Battle Axe” Troop and a Springfield, Tenn., native, is the head chef, by all accounts. The “grab n’ go” dining facility was renamed “Danny’s” upon its reopening by the troop. Toliver spends his mornings in the towers on guard, and devotes his evenings to feeding the remaining people at Q-West.
“We started thinking this whole thing up when we heard the chow hall was closing,” Toliver said. “I was always cooking and grilling in our living area … and everything just came together.”
The 15th Sustainment Brigade did something similar for a few weeks after the chow halls closed, but the Soldiers with Battle Axe Troop took it a little further. They gathered a refrigerator trailer, charcoal and fresh foods from other 278th ACR units on other bases. As a result, “Danny’s” is able to produce full meals, complete with fresh produce and dessert.
Volunteers mop, sweep, stock drinks and prepare fresh fruits and vegetables.
Capt. Chad Shirley, supply officer with 1st Sqdn., 278th ACR, keeps the stock rolling in and the rest of Soldiers with Battle Axe Troop keep the grills hot and the morale up.
Even the troop’s first sergeant, 1st Sgt. Marshall Furman, a Hendersonville, Tenn., native, can be seen manning a grill every evening.
“Danny’s” may be the only restaurant in town, but the service, food and dedication of its staff catapults it far above any civilian-manned dining facility in Iraq.
Sgt. Danny Toliver, a member of the quick reaction force with “Battle Axe” Troop, 1st Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a Springfield, Tenn., native mans the main grill at “Danny’s” June 17 to feed remaining Soldiers and civilians at Contingency Operating Base Q-West, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. DesiRee Nicely)
Staff Sgt. Ritchie Hays enjoys his 40th birthday and a steak cooked just for him June 14 at “Danny’s” on Contingency Operating Base Q-West, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. DesiRee Nicely)