MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- The West Coast Food Management Team from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., arrived on station Nov. 28 to train and evaluate the Marine cooks here through Friday.
"The West Coast Food Management Team is a team that works directly for Headquarters Marine Corps. We go around evaluating mess halls around the West Coast,” said Army Master Sgt. Alicia C. Siager, West Coast Food Management Team instructor, a native of Springfield, Ill.
The mess halls include Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twenty-nine Palms, Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport, Calif., Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., and the air station here.
“We are right now under our evaluation phase for the fiscal year, which starts in October, when we visit all the areas at least once a year.”
"We're an evaluation and training team. We don't teach things the Marines don't know,” said Master Sgt. Cecilia A. Henderson, West Coast Food Management Team senior instructor and native of Seattle. “We basically give refreshers on the fundamentals of food services. Some of the things we look at are maintenance management, embargo and training."
During the first week of their visit here, approximately 26 cooks underwent a field cooking evaluation before they conducted training and evaluation in garrison food services.
One of the criteria covered is food hazards, Siager said.
"There are three main hazards that can be introduced into food when you're in a cooking environment: Physical hazard, chemical hazard and biological hazards. Biological hazards are from germs and bacteria, physical can be pieces of glass, hair or wood, and chemical hazards can be cleaning products."
Other criteria covered in the training include proper sanitation, bacteria growth factors and cooking temperatures.
One of the most important criteria for the cooks to know is bacteria growth factors. The growth factors are factors which bacteria need in which to grow, said Siager.
“Just like humans, (bacteria) need certain things. They need air, food, water and certain climate,” Siager said. “Depending on the commodity of food, such as poultry and beef for instance, there are certain minimum temperatures that products should be cooked at to ensure that certain bacteria are killed."
Making sure the Marine cooks understand their requirements is very important, said Siager. Not knowing hazards, growth factors or cooking temperatures, people can get seriously sick.
Practicing safe food storage is not the only important aspect of food management. If the Marines do not wash their hands, if they undercook food, or store food in the wrong temperatures could result to death or serious bodily harm for fellow Marines.
"It's all about troop welfare,” said Siager. “We want troops to be taken care of and get a good quality meal so they are not subjugated to food-born illnesses."
There are many safety standards that could be overlooked, which the Marine cooks must be refreshed on once in a while, said Henderson.
"It never hurts to reinforce a lot of the basics, because there are always one or two things that they may have forgotten or they aren’t practicing that we reinforce, especially when it comes to sanitation practices since there are so many aspects,” Henderson said. “There are a lot of ambiguities, because we have the contractors now, and they use commercial standards, which are normally safe, but we rely more on the Navy and Marine Corps' sanitation standards, which are more strict."
"Hopefully we teach some things that they may miss or skip, and in some cases, we may provide some clarification, because every year there is some confusion about some policies, which we can hopefully clarify," Henderson added.