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Services Airmen train to cook expeditionary style

Staff Sgt. Erich Smith, hands a hot meal to a fellow Arizona Air National Guardsman on the flightline at Tucson International Airport, June 5. Smith, and other members of the 162nd Services Flight, practiced using a Single Pallet Expeditionary Kitchen during a drill weekend here. (Air Force photo by Airman First Class Krystal Tomlin)

Staff Sgt. Erich Smith, hands a hot meal to a fellow Arizona Air National Guardsman on the flightline at Tucson International Airport, June 5. Smith, and other members of the 162nd Services Flight, practiced using a Single Pallet Expeditionary Kitchen during a drill weekend here. (Air Force photo by Airman First Class Krystal Tomlin)

Staff Sgt. Jake Sulwer, prepares unitized group rations on the flightline at Tucson International Airport, June 5. Sulwer, and other members of the 162nd Services Flight, practiced using a Single Pallet Expeditionary Kitchen during a drill weekend here. (Air Force photo by Airman First Class Krystal Tomlin)

Staff Sgt. Jake Sulwer, prepares unitized group rations on the flightline at Tucson International Airport, June 5. Sulwer, and other members of the 162nd Services Flight, practiced using a Single Pallet Expeditionary Kitchen during a drill weekend here. (Air Force photo by Airman First Class Krystal Tomlin)

Guardsmen assigned to the 162nd Fighter Wing enjoy a lunch on the flightline at Tucson International Airport, June 5. Members of the 162nd Services Flight practiced using a Single Pallet Expeditionary Kitchen during a drill weekend here. (Air Force photo by Airman First Class Krystal Tomlin)

Guardsmen assigned to the 162nd Fighter Wing enjoy a lunch on the flightline at Tucson International Airport, June 5. Members of the 162nd Services Flight practiced using a Single Pallet Expeditionary Kitchen during a drill weekend here. (Air Force photo by Airman First Class Krystal Tomlin)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- There is nothing like a home-cooked meal. For Airmen at bare-base locations eating such a meal isn't always possible. When meals-ready-to-eat, MREs, are common fair in austere locations, Airmen welcome the site of a kitchen set up to serve hot food.

One such kitchen used by the 162nd Services Flight was put to the test here on the flightline at Tucson International Airport during a unit training assembly June 5 - the Single Pallet Expeditionary Kitchen, or SPEK.

"The purpose of setting up the unit over drill weekend is to provide training for our services personnel and to introduce it to wing members here," said Tech. Sgt. Antonio Jurado, food service shift leader.

The SPEK is a mobile, temporary kitchen for use in remote and undeveloped areas. It fits on a single 463L air cargo pallet and can operate on a diesel generator.

"The SPEK is a fairly new piece of equipment for us here. I've deployed and worked out of various types of kitchens but this is my first experience with the SPEK. It's very efficient and takes very little time to set up," said Staff Sgt. Eric Klajda, food service shift leader.

In less than two hours, five Guardsmen setup the kitchen that includes a tray ration heater used for preparing unitized group rations, or UGRs. It also comes equipped with a sanitation system for cleaning, washing and sanitizing utensils and accessories such as beverage and food storage containers.

"It is capable of preparing up to 550 UGR heat and serve meals twice a day for a period of up to 30 days. The SPEK also has the capability to serve other types of rations," said Sergeant Jurado.

According to the Defense Supply Center in Philadelphia, UGRs are used to sustain military personnel during worldwide operations that can support organized food service facilities and is designed to maximize the use of commercial items to simplify the process of providing high-quality food service in a field environment. There are currently three breakfast and 14 lunch/dinner menus available.

Staff Sgt. David Urban from the 162nd Logistics Readiness Squadron sat down at a table near the SPEK to enjoy a lunch that consisted of barbecue pork ribs, macaroni and cheese, green beans and an apple dessert.

"This is my first time eating a UGR. The portions are better and it taste better than eating an MRE," said the sergeant.

At deployed locations setting up various operations can take much coordination and time. The SPEK allows for maximum use of manpower and minimal resources.

"What I like about the SPEK is you can literally unpack, assemble and serve a meal right off the pallet. It's very easy to use," said sergeant Jurado.

SPEKs are used at bare base locations until expanded Basic Expeditionary Airfield Resource (BEAR) kitchens can be set up that can independently support sustained combat operations with the same independence as fixed theater installations.