RAF trainees get a taste for field cooking
A group of trainee chefs and stewards got a taste of what its like to cook in a field kitchen while on deployment during a recent course held at RAF Wittering.
3 Mobile Catering Squadron (3MCS) held the Deployed Skills Course, which simulated a real world environment, in the Vigo Woods area of the base.
An RAF Wittering spokesman said 13 trainees had taken part in the exercise.
"During phase one of their training they are given the basic military training an airman needs," he said.
"They are then sent to RAF Worthy Down for phase two training.
"At some stage during that they come to RAF Wittering to spend time with 3 Mobile Catering Squadron to learn deployed kitchen skills.
"They learn to set up a kitchen in the field and within two hours have boiling water and hot food.
"After 48 hours they aim to start cooking with fresh rations."
Flight Lieutenant Damian Clayton, the acting officer commanding 3MCS, said servicemen worked long hours.
Depending on the conditions in which they are deployed, they need the right calorie intake to ensure they perform productively and efficiently, while good food also ensures morale remains high.
"We want to maintain their fighting spirit and they need food that they are familiar with and tastes good," he said.
"We can't just given them anything."
Warrant Officer Darren Rose said the tent kitchens were modular designs that allowed them to easily be made bigger, depending on how many people they were cooking for.
He said that although it was difficult to cater for all tastes while in the field, the squadron engaged with members of the armed services who avoided certain foodstuffs due to religious beliefs to find a solution.
He said on average they worked on around two to 2.5 per cent of people having special catering needs.
"Over the past 20 months 3MCS supplied about a million meals in various deployments around the world," he said.
Of the 13 trainees on the Deployed Skills Course, seven were chefs and five stewards.
"Stewards have a more diverse role which covers everything from site maintenance to cleaning," said Warrant Office Rose.
"The only thing they don't do is the technical cooking."
Aircraftman Morgan Senior, 19, said he started chef training in October and had already learnt about the different types of tents used for kitchens and what equipment was needed for deployments.
"It is difficult remembering how to put up such a big tent and it takes a lot of teamwork," he said, adding that cooking in a tent also presented a number of challenges.
"There's not a lot of space, especially with the amount of people. Each person has their own station and there is a lot of communication involved."
Aircraftman Senior said his dad and brother had served in the military, which drew him to joining the RAF as a chef.
"I always enjoyed cooking at home so I thought I'd give it a go."
Steward Emily Willis, 28, said family ties had also led her to signing up.
"It's something that I've always wanted to do," she said. "I love it. It's definitely for me.
"The toughest part is the training but if you can get through it you can get through anything."
Wing Commander Debs Wright, the commander in charge of 3MCS, said the squadron was "absolutely crucial" to the RAF.
"You can't work and be happy without a full stomach," she said.
"Whether out in the desert or in the cold of Norway, if you have 3MCS providing food it boosts morale."