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Tucson wins ANG's highest food service honor

Tech. Sgt. Santos Flores of the 162nd Force Support Squadron at Tucson International Airport adds a little "zing" to sheet pans of chicken pieces over the unit’s February drill weekend. Flores and his fellow foodservice Airmen at the 162nd Fighter Wing captured the 2012 Senior Master Sgt. Kenneth W. Disney award, and will be traveling to Chicago to receive their honors in May. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Hollie Hansen)

Tech. Sgt. Santos Flores of the 162nd Force Support Squadron at Tucson International Airport adds a little "zing" to sheet pans of chicken pieces over the unit’s February drill weekend. Flores and his fellow foodservice Airmen at the 162nd Fighter Wing captured the 2012 Senior Master Sgt. Kenneth W. Disney award, and will be traveling to Chicago to receive their honors in May. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Hollie Hansen)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- For the third time in 18 years, the men and women who feed nearly 800 Airmen every drill weekend at Tucson's airport will bring home the Senior Master Sgt. Kenneth W. Disney Award and the title of "best dining facility in the Air Guard."

The dining facility's triumph, announced March 22 by the Air National Guard director of manpower, personnel and services, came on the heels of an evaluation conducted during February's drill, in which a five-member inspection team viewed the kitchen crew in action. The facility staff - Airmen assigned to the 162nd Force Support Squadron - earned an overall rating of "Excellent" from the team.

"I am extremely proud our entire staff for accomplishing this this award, because a lot of hard work goes into this," said Capt. Paul Jefferson, the squadron commander. "However, it's a true testament to the leadership of our Sustainment and Services Flight Superintendent Senior Master Sgt. Mike Soich. He has consistently molded 28 individuals into a highly-motivated, technically skilled team that performs at high levels in every assignment."

The announcement was humbling according to Airman 1st Class Michael Labrecque, who was recognized as a "professional performer" during the inspection period yet credited the achievement to his mentors. "We are well-trained, always getting expertise from our senior leadership," he said.

In addition to a trophy that will garnish the main entrance of the dining facility, the services specialists of the 162nd Fighter Wing have earned a weekend in Chicago this May to receive the honors at the John L. Hennessy Food Service Awards Banquet, which recognizes food service and hospitality excellence within the Air Force and its reserve components.

Food service personnel will also represent the Air Guard at the National Restaurant Association show held in conjunction with the Hennessy banquet - a much anticipated opportunity to connect with civilian counterparts.

Sergeant Soich, who will be attending the event in the Windy City for the third time, described it as "educational and fun."

According to Soich, the networking and exposure cannot be overstated. "In addition to active duty and reserve members, the National Restaurant Association, Society for Food Management and the International Foodservice Executive Society will be there," he said. "So we will be recognized by the entire food industry, which is probably one of the largest industries in the world."

However impressive the praises, he said the approach to culinary excellence at the 162nd's dining facility is simple. "It's all about teamwork, and putting out the best products we can every drill weekend."

"This award means the world to this staff," Jefferson said, "because they are sending their superintendent, Sergeant Soich, into retirement after 25 years of outstanding service on top of the Air National Guard services world."