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Staff Sgt. Robert Downing, dining facility staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron and Al Schutt, mess hall manager, accept their third Maj. Gen. W.P.T. Hill award for Best Combined Mess Hall in the Marine Corps at an International Food Services Executives Association award ceremony in San Diego April 30.

Photo by Cpl. Giovanni Lobello

Mess hall dubbed 'Best in Corps' three years running

5 May 2005 | Cpl. Giovanni Lobello

Station mess hall Marines received the Maj. Gen. W.P.T. Hill award at an International Food Services Executives Association award ceremony at the Town and Country hotel in San Diego Saturday.

This is the third consecutive year the mess hall has won the Hill award for the 'Best Full Food Service Mess Hall in the Marine Corps.' Before this year, no mess hall had won a Hill award three years in a row.

"Winning an award like this isn't a one day thing," said Denver, Colo., native Gunnery Sgt. Earl Watie, food service technician. "The basis remains the same as always; we try to do our best daily and provide the best meal possible. Each year we try to change certain things as far as showmanship, but we still remain focused on the most important factor   customer service."

The station mess hall, unlike others around the Corps, doesn't have an officer in charge of it and is completely run by enlisted personnel.

"It's good to have a gunnery sergeant in charge instead of an officer and be as successful as we have been," said Rialto, Calif., native Petty Officer 2nd Class David Sheldon, dining facility chief cook, HHS.

Despite winning the Hill award twice before, winning for a third time proved to be a challenge.

"Most of the Marines were deployed this year so we had to work with Weapons and Tactics Instructor course Marines," said Sheldon. "But even though we had less people, we were able to get the job done. It took extra motivation because we have won twice in a row and we were going for our third consecutive."

"It's hard to repeat, because everybody wants to be number one," said Watie. "We had numerous people come see our operations so they can improve theirs and overtake us."

The mess hall conducted several training exercises from knife sharpening to garnishing, sanitation and maintenance throughout the year to help them win the Hill award.

In order to maintain their winning ways, the mess hall may go to unconventional methods next year.

"I would like to see us take all the old stuff and pass that information to the other mess halls and try something out of the ordinary," said Sheldon. "That way no matter what we do, it is original and unique."

Unfortunately, next year the same staff will not be here, which may make it hard to win again, said the York Beach, Maine, native Staff Sgt. Robert Downing, dining facility staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge, H&HS.

"When the new staff arrives, we will have to see what they are able to do, then conduct some extreme training so that the mess hall's level of excellence remains," added Downing.

Because of the hard work put in by mess hall personnel, winning the Hill award again was expected.

"I was extremely happy and excited when we found out we won," said Downing. "We were confident because of the good Navy-Marine Corps team that we have in place. Without the cooperation of everybody this wouldn't have happened."
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