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By Airman 1st Class Andrew Bertain, Peterson-Schriever Garrison Public Affairs
/ Published November 20, 2020
Airman 1st Class Alexy Hosino-Montira, 21st Force Support Squadron food service apprentice, works in the kitchen at the base dining facility, Nov. 18, 2020 at Peterson Air Force Base. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the dining facility has had to endure many challenges including low manning, maintaining even higher sanitization levels in the cafeteria and kitchen, and additional food safety precautions. (U.S. Space Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Bertain)
Many Peterson AFB units’ missions and manning have been affected since the U.S. started its first COVID-19 lockdowns in March of 2020, and the dining facility is no exception.
To minimalize the risk of spreading the virus, the DFAC changed how Airmen were able to get their food. The menu could no longer offer 100 percent of its options, and multiple features had to be closed for customer safety.
“Normal operations allowed for customers to have self-serving options such as the salad bar and fruit bar; now we are forced to pre-package these items and more all the while trying to manage waste,” said Staff Sgt. Clarissa Booker, 21st Force Support Squadron food service shift leader.
With the self-serve options closed, the food service Airmen had to prepare all pre-packaged food before the meal started along with their normal duties and while keeping the facility sanitized to even higher levels and checking customer temperatures. Once the pandemic started the DFAC has also become the primary food source for NORAD-NORTHCOM alert crews in isolation to protect their critical mission.
Not only did the pandemic increase the daily work load, it also had a major impact on manning. Just like everyone else, the DFAC staff had to deal with quarantining members, leaving minimal Airmen to cover shifts. But, they persevered and refused to fail.
“With recent changes, it has put a strain on not only the Airmen, but the team. We have experienced multiple situations which required staff members to quarantine, leaving sometimes three individuals to operate the entire facility and the DFAC's mission,” stressed Booker.
Pandemic or not, the food service Airmen are still getting their mission done every day, and are finding ways to increase and improve customer support.
“Our operations were definitely slowed down at the beginning of the pandemic, but we’ve been able to pick it up a lot, being able to support a special mission [feeding NORAD crews] and starting to add more items back to the menu,” said Airman 1st Class Alexy Hosino-Montira, 21st FSS food service apprentice. “Business is getting back to where it was before.”
Always trying to improve, the DFAC looks to come out more efficient than it was prior to the pandemic.
“I believe we will come out better than before. Like most other jobs we have found better ways to conduct business and our Airmen keep finding innovative ways to adapt to the new climate. I know things were tough for a bit, but that only made us better,” said Staff Sgt. Kalen Thomas, 21st FSS assistant manager.