'You got served': Misawa dining facility fuels exercise Northern Viper

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Pots clang, oven doors whip open and hot air and steam fill the air while small two-inch music speakers attempt to drown out the loud reminders of hard work.The dining facility is operating at more than 200 percent capacity at Misawa Air Base, Japan.

“We have Marines here for exercise Northern Viper 17,” explained U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Theda Pittman, the 35th Force Support Squadron dining facility storeroom NCO in charge. “There’s an influx upwards of 500 people.”

To put that into perspective, the Grissom Dining Facility normally serves about 300 people a day. Now, they’ve more than doubled their numbers.

“I’m glad to help,” said U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Leotis Heath, a food service specialist assigned to the Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. “Without myself and the seven other Marines here, it’d be harder to support that many people.”

Although they have extra hands to help prepare meals, there’s no predicting how quickly the food will go off the shelves. Should a real-world contingency operation occur, this exercise is a great way to predict how Misawa Airmen in the dining facility would react to an influx of personnel. Misawa AB is capable to act as a power projection hub to forward-deployed service members at any given moment.

“Making sure we have enough food in stock is our biggest challenge right now because they eat a lot,” Pittman confessed, laughing as she spoke. “We had five boxes of lettuce to last us the week and they ate all of it within a day.”

Running out of things like lettuce is normally not critical, but if it affects hundreds of Misawa residents and Marines on temporary duty, the mission may be impacted if multiple items sold out at the same time. The additional troops to feed offer lessons in flexibility but also great work experience for both the Airmen and Marines working in the DFAC.

“I’ve never worked with Marines before,” said Pittman. “It‘s great to have the opportunity to work together, and it gives our young Airmen a chance to expand on their work experience.”

“Being able to see different people and work with a different branch is valuable,” added Heath. “Interacting with the Air Force is a lot different than what I’m used to.”

That’s not the only benefit to having Marines in the dining facility. Having two sister services working together has streamlined service in the dining facility, allowing operations to continue running smoothly despite the additional traffic.

“We haven’t needed to increase our hours,” said Pittman. “If we didn’t have the extra hands, we would’ve had to extend our hours.”

Fortunately, they can continue blasting music in the back and serve food to Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines at Misawa AB.