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Services trains, tests, and serves up a Hot lunch on a Cold Day in February

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Julie Avey
  • 168th Wing

Eielson Air Force Base recently experienced temperatures of -40 and colder, and the 168th Wing Force Support Squadron Food Services personnel were outside in the harsh elements, testing and preparing their Disaster Relief Mobile Kitchen Trailer to support the unit’s February drill weekend.

One unique aspect of the Force Support Squadron’s mission is keeping Airmen fed and refueled for the mission. The 168th Services Airmen refuel with meals to sustain their fellow Guard members, agency partners, and community during emergency relief situations.

“It was important for us to test this equipment in this harsh environment because we could be called to deploy it anywhere in the state,” said Capt. Jeffrey Skaggs, 168th Force Support Squadron commander. “We are still working with NGB and the manufacturer on weatherization upgrades but were able to maintain cooking temps in both ovens for several hours while it was -40F.”

“Ultimately, we decided to separate testing the equipment and cooking for the team’s safety. The Services crew captured great data from the testing and fed 100 people a nice, hot lunch on a cold Drill day.”

The 168th Wing Services’ Airmen maintain proficiency by frequently training and providing meals during field mission readiness training and community events such as the Veteran’s Standdown Day in Fairbanks. These opportunities to serve offer training for Airmen to be prepared in times of emergencies.

“I feel that this training helped us know what could go wrong in cold temperatures, so we were able to come together as a team and brainstorm ideas that we can use for the future,” said Senior Airman Shannon Holan, 168th Services. “I found it useful that we got to find out that when the hydraulic system freezes, there is no way of being able to move the trailer. We even got AGE heaters to help thaw it out, but it still did not work properly with the heaters on the system. I feel that my problem-solving regarding this trailer has improved, for example, being able to figure out why a burner isn’t working because of the lack of air or too much air or the fuel.”

The services team successfully fed the Airmen of the 168th Wing as they always find available resources to showcase their cooking talents.

“Thankfully, we have such an amazing team, so working in the arctic winter conditions went a lot better than I expected,” said Holan. “We were able to get a few of the kitchen appliances running so that we could cook meals.”

The DRMKT is equipped with remote capabilities, including a generator and water sources. The kitchen trailer has double-door convection ovens that accommodate six commercial pans and a griddle with a dial-in surface griddle.

“I feel that it is essential to test the DRMKT in the arctic conditions because we could get tasked with a mission to cook meals for people at any time, and if we aren’t prepared for what can happen with the trailer in negative weather, then we won’t know how to work around issues that could occur,” said Holan. 

The 168th Wing supports the Homeland Emergency Response Force and community and state interagency partners in the event of an emergency disaster. The President may call upon the 168th in times of global crisis. When local disasters strike, a state governor may activate Air Guard units to protect American citizens’ lives.