09-105 Flood Feature: Guard Works to Keep Troops Fed for Flood Fight
By Sgt. 1st Class Mike Hagburg & Spc. Chris Erickson, NDNG Public Affairs
/ Published April 20, 2009
VALLEY CITY and FARGO, N.D. -- Military cooks fed thousands of hungry people a day during the Red River Valley flood crisis and they are still serving hundreds a day as the flood fight moves west.
In Valley City, military cooks are now feeding more than 300 troops a day from their kitchen at the armory, said Sgt. 1st Class Allen L. Kupitz, Stirum, food operations sergeant for the 231st Maneuver Task Force.
There were 17 cooks assigned to duty in Valley City as of Saturday. The cooks come from about a half-dozen different North Dakota Army National Guard units, Kupitz said.
"As the troop numbers creep up, we're hoping our numbers go up, too," said Sgt. 1st Class Kirk A. Seaver, Rugby, who serves as shift leader in the Valley City kitchen. "We had eight people on at first and have received nine more since we started."
The cooks have been keeping food available in the armory around the clock, Seaver said.
They serve a full breakfast and dinner meal and they keep a soup and sandwich bar running the rest of the day.
The kitchen in the Valley City armory is the right size to feed about 100 Guardsmen, Kupitz said. "We're pushing it here," he said. "People have been pretty mentally agile adjusting to conditions."
"It's a challenge, but a challenge is good sometimes," Seaver said. "We all have to work together."
Meanwhile, in Fargo, military food service operations are winding down, said Senior Master Sgt. Walt W. Laudon, Detroit Lakes, Minn., the 119th Wing's Force Support Squadron Services Flight Manager.
Flood food operations started small on March 20, when Laudon and his colleague Tech. Sgt. David E. Mehus first took box lunches to the FargoDome and "Sandbag Central." The Wing's kitchen couldn't be opened because they were the only two on shift.
"The box lunches were used because we didn't want to consume the food the Salvation Army and Red Cross had," Laudon said. "That was for civilian volunteers who needed it just as much."
After eight days of delivering box lunches, Laudon and Mehus were notified they had nine hours to get the 119th's kitchen running.
"We went from no operations at all to full operations in the span of hours," Laudon said.
Laudon said it went smoothly because they had experienced things like this on short notice during Desert Storm and following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The 119th's dining facility soon had five cooks per shift and was serving about 1,000 meals per day.
Barely a mile to the northwest, the Fargo Armed Forces Reserve Center kitchen was serving 1,000-plus meals each for breakfast and dinner, Laudon said.
After the first crest of the Red River in Fargo, both dining facilities shut down operations for a few days. They ramped back up again in early April and were serving about 400 meals per day.
"They were preparing for the worst in the Valley, and when the threat went away they started reducing shifts," Seaver said. "Now they're just keeping a skeleton crew in Fargo."
The 119th dining facility may soon return to cooking only drill weekends.
"Ops here are pretty much closing down," Laudon said. "They're going to push everything to Valley City."
Since the terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 2,800 Soldiers and more than 1,600 Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. In recent weeks, nearly 2,000 North Dakota National Guardsmen - with support of about 400 additional Soldiers and Airmen from six other states - have been mobilized for current flood fighting missions all across North Dakota. With a total force of about 4,400 Soldiers and Airmen, we continue to have sufficient forces available to provide emergency response and homeland defense.