USS RUSHMORE, At sea --
In the early hours of the morning, while most Marines are fast asleep in their racks, stand a select few of food service specialists in a formation ready for a hygiene inspection.
It’s the beginning of a long day that includes prepping ingredients, cooking meals, serving food and constant cleaning. When it’s all said and done food service specialists with Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, working side-by-side with Sailors, will have cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner for more than 700 service members aboard the USS Rushmore (LSD 47).
“This is where it all starts,” said Gacilo, a food service specialist, CLB-15. “They don’t enter the kitchen unless they’re 100 percent clean and ready to handle the food.”
With so much to do, things in the sea galley can get pretty chaotic.
“You can relate the kitchen to a battlefield,” said Gacilo, 28, from Seattle. “It is crazy in there, everyone is all over the place, it’s loud, it’s hot. You have to keep a calm mindset and see past the [fog of war]. As a [noncommissioned officer] you have to keep calm and show your troops that if you can keep calm so can they, and everything will be fine.”
Menus are already set in place, but Marines are able to put their signature flavors on how they prepare and present the meals.
“I love to cook,” said Lance Cpl. Tayleen Taylor, a food service specialist, CLB-15. “I’m always experimenting and trying to find new ways to spice things up or give it a little twist. I make it a point to not let anything go to waste.”
With the little spare time they have in between meals, Taylor can be found in the kitchen or in the bakery finding new ways to satisfy Marines and Sailors.
“The other day I tried making stuffed apples,” Tayler said as she recalled one of her latest experiments. “I took an apple and carved out the center, and then I took some creamed cheese and mixed that with French vanilla creamer with some brown sugar and I put that on the apple. I then baked that for a few minutes and I used a foster sauce that I had made using butter with brown sugar that is melted, and I poured that over the apple. It was a big hit.”
Although, the hours are long and the work is demanding, every cook is happy to do it knowing that the work they’re doing is making someone’s day or making life aboard the ship feel a little more like home.
“We cook for everyone knowing that we’re all away from home, and you miss it,” Taylor said. “So maybe making this meal makes it a little better being here, almost like a family.”
Others take pride in knowing the meals they prepare are feeding Marines who risk their lives to defend this nation.
“I do believe that these Marines and Sailors feel more replenished and their morale is higher and they’re ready to go do what they have to do when going out on a training [operation] after having one of my meals,” Gacilo said.
While the Marines and Sailors don’t know what the upcoming deployment has in store for them, they can rest easy knowing it will include delicious home-style cooking from the Marines of CLB-15.