By Senior Airman Vicky Spesard, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 23, 2013
WASHINGTON -- Nine members of the Kentucky Air National Guard deployed to the nation's capital over the past week to provide lodging and food services for hundreds of Guardsmen operating in direct support of President Barack Obama's inauguration.
The Kentucky Airmen, all assigned to the Louisville-based 123rd Force Support Squadron, arrived Jan. 15 at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., where they joined forces with 21 other National Guard services teams to train in preparation for housing and feeding more than 6,500 Soldiers and Airmen, according to Tech. Sgt. Ricky Odle, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the detail.
A few days later, the Kentucky group moved to McKinley Technology High School in Washington, D.C., where the Airmen began preparing for the arrival of more than 300 military police and security forces for whom they would be providing meals and sleeping quarters.
"It's a great honor to be asked to participate in the Presidential Inauguration," said Odle, a services specialist. "We brought a great and experienced group of hardworking Airmen who know the importance of such a high-profile event."
Airman 1st Class Jordan Newby, a food services specialist who -- like all the Kentucky Airmen -- volunteered for the mission, was excited about the opportunity.
"I wanted to say that I was a part of history," Newby said. "Even though we are here to cook for the Army, we're still a part of something bigger, something important. Later on in life, I wanted to say that I had been there for this event."
After unloading two pallets of drinking water and five pallets of food, the Airmen set up a new Disaster Relief Mobile Kitchen Trailer in the school parking lot. Of the 13 different units stationed around the D.C. area to provide food services, only two had the DRMKT, a new approach to field kitchens that offers much greater efficiency than previous models, Odle said.
"We were able to test the new kitchen last summer," he noted. "This event is a great opportunity to put it to use with a high volume of cooking. We are all very excited to break it in and see what it can do."
"I was completely impressed with the cooking trailer that the Air Guard brought in," said Army Sgt. Andre Miller, a military police troop from the Virginia National Guard. "I have never seen such an efficient way to cook for such a large group of people."
With food preparation underway, the Airmen turned their attention to the task of keeping pulled pork sandwiches, chicken pot pie, chili, scrambled eggs and a variety of other foods ready to serve in the gymnasium that doubled as sleeping quarters.
"Space is a commodity with the cots, equipment and supplies that the MPs and Security Forces are bringing," said Tech Sgt. Shaun Cowherd, who acted as lodging liaison with school personnel.
"We had to put the serving line at one end of the gymnasium, tables to eat at in the middle of the room, and sleeping areas surrounding the tables. I had to ask the school to open up additional classrooms for training and tactical areas. It's a bit tight, but everyone should have a hot meal and a comfortable place to sleep."
Army Sgt. Lashonda Castellanos, a military police Soldier, was impressed with the sleeping arrangements and cooking services provided by the 123rd.
"They were able to roll out meals for all of us even when we were arriving at odd times," she said. "It was hot, we have a place to sleep and we can go out to do the things that we need to do."
Castellanos, like the majority of the 6,500 Guardsmen who deployed to the capital region, was charged with augmenting security provided by the Secret Service, Parks Authority and the D.C. Metro Police Department, said Maj. Nathaniel Church, Sustainment Services Flight commander for the 113th Force Support Squadron at Andrews.
"They are here to provide an extra set of eyes and ears for our local law enforcement," he said. "Security at this event is our top priority."
Each incoming military member, no matter his or her assigned mission, was given security and procedural training by the D.C. police department and sworn in as a temporary deputy.
"Even though we are here to cook, it was really surreal to listen to a briefing on the correct way to look for suspicious packages and people who might be out of place," said Senior Airman Dwight Trowell as he was stacking bottles of water. "It really reminds you that we are really here to support the president."
Throughout the course of the deployment, which ended Jan. 21, the Kentucky team served more than 1,800 meals to Army Guard MP units from Manassas and Fredericks, Va.; and an Air Guard Security Forces unit from Langley, Va.
"It's definitely true what they say," said Army 1st Lt. Lloyd Weaver, executive officer of the 266th Military Police Company. "The Army does move on its stomach. We are very grateful when we can get a hot meal and a place to sleep. It's really great that we can have another military organization be able to come in and provide that to us.
"We don't always get that chance to work side-by-side with the Air Force. This is a great opportunity for us to work together on something this momentous."