Osan DFAC: 'You got served'
OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- It's said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but most Osan Airmen won't argue the importance of lunch and dinner either. More than 90 percent of the base eats at one of the three dining facilities almost every day, but less than one percent actually works there.
Service members routinely visit the dining facilities, but there's probably very little thought to the effort behind preparation of the meals served. Working nine-hour days, the staff at Osan's DFACs go above and beyond to provide not just a meal, but a clean and pleasant dining experience for more than 3,000 members daily, averaging nearly one million meals a year. The base dining facilities are open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a midnight meal.
"There is a lot of work that goes into what we do that people don't see," said Airman 1st Class Rayshon Louden, 51st Force Support Squadron food apprentice at the Ginkgo Tree dining facility. "My job includes prepping for different meals, working the grill, temperature checking every 15 to 30 minutes depending on the food line, making sure the facility, salad and dining areas stay clean, refilling items, and making sure customers are taken care of and enjoying their food. We stay pretty busy from the time we get there until we leave."
Food preparation and serving is only one side of the spectrum when it comes to the dining facility. The services are broken down into production, store room, and shift workers, who ultimately work together every day to ensure each DFAC is able to complete their mission.
The menu for the items served each day are determined by the Air Force Services Agency and projected 14 days in advance, then tailored to fit the needs of the tenants here. The production staff work with numbers and finances to determine the higher selling items and what customers prefer, what items need to be ordered, and what is already in stock.
"A hot meal is a morale booster for everybody, so we learn from experience what people don't like and we try and make the best modifications in order to serve our people," said Staff Sgt. Carlos Soto, 51st FSS Ginkgo Tree production manager. "A lot of our Airmen are dorm residents, not by choice, and they are losing their basic allowance for subsistence and have to eat here. Knowing what they want helps us accommodate them better and lets us know what they would prefer to eat opposed to just having whatever we choose to serve."
Another pivotal part, and referred to as the heart of the dining facility, is the store room. The store room houses all of the food served from the DFAC, and working the store room means being responsible for thousands of dollars worth of food every month that must be stored, inventoried and accounted for with every delivery. Proper management of the store room is essential to maintaining proper functionality of the DFAC. Each menu is dependent on store room workers ordering sufficient items for each meal, to include when other units visit the base. Much like any other career field, members at the DFAC must also maintain all of their military training, often coming in on days off and after hours to fulfill their requirements.
Despite their hectic schedule, the base dining facilities pride themselves on customer service, trying to find new ways to accommodate members.
"It's really all about customer service, and that can also be one of the most challenging parts of our job," Louden said. "People aren't going to like everything, but at the same time those complaints are also helpful because they help us figure out how we can make things better. They may not see everything we do, but it's crazy at the end of the day knowing that you served so many people. Everyone has to eat, right?"
In an effort to continue making the DFACs better, the 51st FSS food service is hosting a Dining Facility Essential Station Messing Focus Board on May 2 at 4:30 p.m. at the Pacific House dining facility. The forum is a chance for members to exchange concerns, suggestions and ideas with the food service professionals, as well as learn about the present operational processes, procedures and policies.