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Unit defines the word ‘Service’ while wearing several hats

Staff Sgt. Raul Verdugo prepares a club sandwich for a unit member. (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Dan Dodson)

Staff Sgt. Raul Verdugo prepares a club sandwich for a unit member. (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Dan Dodson)

Senior Airman Svetlana Sevciuc prepares hamburgers for short order. Approximately 250 to 300 meals are served a day at the short order line. (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Dan Dodson)

Senior Airman Svetlana Sevciuc prepares hamburgers for short order. Approximately 250 to 300 meals are served a day at the short order line. (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Dan Dodson)

Staff Sgt. Aaron Bisher puts cheese sauce on broccoli. Sergeant Bisher is one of thirty members in food services. (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Dan Dodson)

Staff Sgt. Aaron Bisher puts cheese sauce on broccoli. Sergeant Bisher is one of thirty members in food services. (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Dan Dodson)

Capt. Paul Jefferson, service’s commander, talks with Chief Master Sgt. Russell Sullivan and Lt. Col. Chuck Recker about their lunch. Captain Jefferson makes sure the food is good, and served with the appropriate portions. Services has to meet Air Force standards within plus or minus 10 percent. That means they are not able to make or lose much money. Monitoring portions is one way they are able to successfully meet rigid standards. (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Dan Dodson)

Capt. Paul Jefferson, service’s commander, talks with Chief Master Sgt. Russell Sullivan and Lt. Col. Chuck Recker about their lunch. Captain Jefferson makes sure the food is good, and served with the appropriate portions. Services has to meet Air Force standards within plus or minus 10 percent. That means they are not able to make or lose much money. Monitoring portions is one way they are able to successfully meet rigid standards. (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Dan Dodson)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- As unit members work throughout the day the Friday before drill, many of them are probably wishing it was Saturday, so they could eat. This is because of the great smell radiating from the base dining facility. 

The aroma is being created by a few servicemembers performing an annual training day preparing the food for the coming drill weekend. Last month, unit members would have smelled turkey roasting on the grills outside the Ellwood Dining Facility. 

But the meal doesn't start there. There is a highly coordinated effort to get the food to the grill. "We are planning next month's meal during the drill before," said Services Superintendent Senior Master Sgt. Michael Soich. "We have to plan for two meals, plus the short order lines," he said. 

The food arrives from Shamrock Foods in Phoenix the week of drill. "We serve almost eight-hundred meals per day." 

While Friday is a busy day for many services personnel, the days get longer for them on Saturday and Sunday. "Our people work real hard. We usually are the first section to arrive on base and the last to leave," said Food Service's Manger Master Sgt. Stan Peterson. 

It's not unusual to see them preparing meals at 5:30 in the morning, and having a formation late in the afternoon. In fact, sometimes they arrive as early as 3:30 a.m., depending on the meal. 

"We have amazing people in our section," said Service's Commander Capt. Paul Jefferson. To start with, only one of the services personnel is in the food industry in their civilian employment. More amazing than that, preparing food is just one of their many jobs. 

In addition to preparing food, they're in charge of lodging, fitness and recreation, mortuary affairs and the fatality search and recovery team. They're under the soon-to-be-activated 162nd Force Support Squadron. 

They are a multi-faceted career field. For perspective purposes, if they were activated to assist during Hurricane Katrina, they could very well have prepared breakfast, then searched for human remains. 

"What they are able to accomplish is incredible," said Captain Jefferson. They deployed with the medical squadron to Michigan, with the recruiters to Camp Navajo, and made sure vehicle maintenance received food while in Bowie, Ariz., to name just a few. Many of these tasks were accomplished when their former commander was performing three tours in Iraq. 

The services flight is currently working on a 3,000 square-foot fitness room. Also, they are constantly training because they are in an Air Expeditionary Force cycle. This means there is a high chance of a deployment in their future. They are also in charge of the joint use facility, building 15 (TAGRA). 

While other sections are able to close temporarily to complete training, this is not a luxury for the services section. They do it all while preparing meals, cross-training for other duties, managing monthly mobility requirements and meeting their $80,000 annual budget. 

With all this going on, Captain Jefferson understands their number one goal is to provide high-quality food to everyone that walks into the Ellwood Dining Facility. "We know we are only as good as our last meal, and we work hard to make sure that meal is a good one."