Grissom dishes out fuel to fight
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- From the steady string of early morning risers entering the dining facility for a piping hot breakfast, to the hustle and bustle of the dinner crowd idly chatting about their day, Staff Sgt. Jessica Baldwin, 35th Force Support Squadron food services shift leader, is constantly alternating between the kitchen and serving line, posing an all important question: "What can I get for you today?"
As an Air Force cook who's responsible for feeding more than 600 people daily, Baldwin starts her day at the Grissom Dining Facility at 5 a.m.
"I love it," Baldwin stated proudly, "I am always cooking."
However, like most members at the DFAC, Baldwin doesn't always find herself in the kitchen entertaining her interest in the culinary arts. If she's not cooking or serving hungry Airmen, then she'll often be seen cleaning up the work station.
"I hate sitting down," said Baldwin. "In this job, we are always busy and constantly moving."
Baldwin also claims there are perks to her job other than cooking and being on her feet incessantly.
Along with working side by side with her fellow Airmen at the dining facility, Baldwin also has a unique opportunity to work side by side with Japanese contractors on a daily basis.
These contractors help the dining facility by picking up trays, working registers, cooking and even helping serve the food on the line.
"They help us out a lot," said Baldwin. "We don't have a lot of people in the kitchen and having them here to help gives us extra people to accomplish other tasks and get everyone through the line faster."
Keeping the base mission going is a team effort and with the help of the Japanese contractors, this is made possible.
Baldwin says another perk of working at the DFAC, is the chance to keep hungry Airmen well-fed and energized with nutritious meals.
The 35th Fighter Wing hosts the mission of the Wild Weasel and it is the dining facility's job to feed all Airmen, said Airman 1st Class Stephen Alsvig, 35 FSS food service journeyman. Supporting these Airmen allows the DFAC to directly support an important part of the mission.
"I think it's really important for Airmen to have a place to eat so they can stay healthy," Alsvig added. "Without us feeding them, [they] aren't going to do their jobs to the best of their ability and it would have a negative effect on the mission."
After all, Virginia Woolf, a well-known English writer, once said, "One cannot think well, love well and sleep well, if one has not dined well."
According to Baldwin, regardless of the plentiful fast food or local restaurants on or off base, the ability to go to the dining facility regularly is an opportunity Airmen should not take for granted.
"If the dining facility were not here for the Airmen, they would be eating MREs or going to Burger King," said Baldwin. "We provide the most nutritious meal for Misawa's Airmen."
On top of getting a meal that hits all of the different food groups, it's free. Well not exactly.
The Air Force automatically takes around $300 out of each paycheck from senior airman and below who live on base in the dormitories. This money goes to the dining facility to pre-pay for meals, so Airmen who live in the dorms and don't eat at the DFAC are paying for double the meal.
For Airman 1st Class Alejandro Cebollero, 35 FSS customer support apprentice and dining facility meal card holder, he says nobody ever sees that money in their paycheck so taking advantage of the dining facility and the already paid for food is an easy decision for him.
"It means a lot to know there is somewhere I can go for four meals a day and leave with a full stomach," said Cebollero. "I come to the dining facility because it's free for me and I don't have to spend my money off base or at other restaurants."
In the end, it's thanks to the dining facility's chefs and dedicated military food distributors like Sergeant Baldwin who allow Misawa's Airmen to continue the 35th Fighter Wing mission with food in their bellies.
"I think it is very important we are here," said Baldwin. "For a lot of Airmen, this is the only place they can go to eat, and it is our job to feed them and hopefully send them back to work happy."