Britbear’s Book Reviews welcomes fellow Black Rose Writing author CG Carey, and his book, Temporary Problems, for today’s guest post, The OIF/OEF Diner’s Guide.
From the back cover:
John Fox has succeeded in achieving a mundane life, the suburban house, the silver car, and the steady white-collar job. He doesn’t know anything is lacking, until he meets the love of his life. Events conspire to separate the lovers, and in an attempt to avoid returning to the humdrum John immerses himself in military life and ultimately the war in Afghanistan.
In OPERATION HERRICK, John’s journey takes him from flying on secret Navy helicopter missions, to eventually participating in ground combat missions with American Marines. He finds that war has its own allure of passion, terror, and humor, but at what cost?
Set in contemporary Britain and Afghanistan, Temporary Problems draws parallels between love and war, each having the power to heal and destroy.
Buy Temporary Problems on Amazon and Black Rose Writing.
The OIF/OEF Diner’s Guide
As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down and then up again, I felt obliged to put together a diner’s guide to reminisce. Who knows, maybe those who feed the troops in the future will incorporate some of the highpoints?
I’ve not included anything smaller than the Forward Operating Base level, as the food supplied anywhere smaller would likely have been delivered from a F.O.B., or would have been field rations/MREs. Not to mention that the ambience at such locations was often marked by burning feces, near constant automatic weapons fire, and various forms of fireworks provided by the local population and their foreign visitors. In other words, they sucked too bad to be mentioned.
Worst to Best
Camp Buehring, Kuwait
There were up to three dining facilities (DFACs) on Buehring and they all sucked. The largest and fanciest of the three was the worst. This was a small training base, and the only location on the list to give me food poisoning. If you find yourself at Buehring, stick to Subway. No stars.
U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower
Pasta without sauce, and sauce without pasta; who cares as long as the suckers keep paying their mess bills, right? Ham sandwiches every day – yes, every day for aviators. My squadron saved the sandwiches up and used them for an eating competition. There were no winners. Adding insult to injury was that we had to pay for that crap they called food. Once on that tub, you are screwed as there are no other options. Your best bet is to steal cereal at breakfast, and eat it every meal day, every day. If you’re flying, pray to divert someplace – any place. Walk on fat because you’re going to get skinny. No stars.
Camp Bastion Cookhouses – All, Afghanistan
From the island that gave the world haggis, Britain felt obliged to again display its culinary ineptitude to its former colonials. At no point should roast turkey breast have air bubbles running through it. Bizarrely, they managed to do just that and it tasted as strange as it looked. Whoever was running the place also had a sense of humor, as there was signs posted everywhere reminding people not to sneak out any food. Don’t worry mate, it was everything in me just to get through the door – your chow’s safe. It was often loud and never failed to disappoint. One star.
Camp Arifjan, Kuwait
This was one of the fancier DFACs. It was also over crowded and the food tasted like crap. If you could get a seat, you would regret having waited in line to eat a marginally better meal than you received at Bastion. Still, it was better than Bastion, and was pretty flash with neon signs and flat screens. One and a half stars.
Camp Dwyer, Afghanistan
Maybe I had set my hopes too high? Maybe I had consistently selected the wrong options? Maybe it was just shit? It was always quiet when I visited though and the contractors all wore white shirts with black bowties. Although the food sucked, the quiet and absurdity of seeing those bowties in Helmand scores Dwyer a solid two stars.
Victory Base Complex – All, Iraq
I don’t remember all the names of all the DFACs on Liberty, Slayer, and Victory, etc. but as a rule, the food was mediocre and the atmosphere loud. Sometimes they served wings, and some clown thought it was appropriate to shout, literally shout, about those wings non-stop. I still fanaticize about his violent demise. Two and a half stars.
Ali Al Salem, Kuwait
This DFAC was run by the Air Force, and you could tell. The food was much better than Buehring, but it still sucked. It was so flash inside though, wow! Lights, neon, flat-screens, tiles, plates and silverware! Three stars.
C.O.B. Speicher, Iraq
This place was nice, big, clean, and reasonably quiet. It showed the signs of quality suffering from too many mouths to feed. The food was notably better than anything in Kuwait and VBC, and it was quieter too. Nowhere near as flash as Ali Al Salem or Arifjan, but much flasher than the top three on this list. Three and a half stars for only being mildly disappointing.
Flight Line DFAC Camp Bastion, Afghanistan
This was like your local dive. It was not particularly clean, it could get busy, and the air-conditioning struggled to cope a lot of the time. All that being said, it was pretty quiet, and was far superior to its closest competition, the Bastion cookhouses. They also often had Gatorade and fake beers. I usually liked what these guys fed me, and that they were open when other DFACs were closed. Four stars for good food, staying open, and being quiet.
Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan
Maybe this rank has been inflated because the Brit cookhouses sucked so badly, but when looked at objectively, it has to score highly. It had identical quality food as the Flight Line DFAC. Although housed in giant tents, it still gave the illusion of cleanliness and space. It was often very busy, but usually quiet when I went. It also was a bit more flash with better air-conditioning than the Flight Line DFAC. Four and a half stars.
F.O.B. Summerall, Iraq
This place was not flash, but had the benefit of being in a permanent-ish building. There were a few flat screen T.V.s. This place was always quiet. If guys spoke, it was at a near whisper. The food was the best I’ve had on deployment. The quality was helped by the fact that there were not very many people on the F.O.B. It’s just as well the food was decent, as there were no other options except MREs or braving something from the locals out in Bayji. Every Friday was stir-fry night, and you could count your stir-fry nights until leaving. Five stars.
As a rule, the food we received in a combat zone was vastly superior to what we normally were/are subjected to back at home by our respective militaries, this is certainly the case for U.S. and U.K. forces. I wonder what ISIS thinks of all the DFACs we left behind?
Did [I] miss your favorite DFAC? Did you run into one worse than at Camp Buering? Maybe you were poisoned at multiple locations? Please feel free to add your stories and rankings in the comments below.
About Christopher Carey:
C.G. Carey grew up in California and is a lifelong Oakland As fan. He enlisted in the U.S. Marines at 17 as an Infantrymen and later attended university in Scotland. He commissioned into the U.S. Navy where he went on to fly in E-25 off of the Eisenhower, Royal Navy H-35 over Afghanistan, and serve with the U.S. Army in Iraq. His awards include some Air Medals and a Combat Action Badge. He retired to Virginia.