The Guardian Dining Facility providing one of the only sources of food during mealtimes at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., is nothing new.
As COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe, this dining facility team follows strict guidance and has changed the way they serve meals to ensure MQ-9 Reaper aircrews can keep the mission going downrange.
Being stationed 40 miles outside of Las Vegas, Nev., means having limited access to restaurants for breakfast, lunch or dinner. With the unique 24/7/365 mission demands of the Remotely Piloted Aircraft enterprise, aircrews and support personnel often rely on their DFAC to make sure they have the fuel to stay focused on the mission overseas.
Total Force Airmen, from security forces to intel analysts and civil engineering, to those flying the missions, work around-the-clock on multiple shifts to preserve the nonstop support of combatant commanders overseas. As one of four permanent dining options at Creech, the Guardian Dining Facility has made great efforts to provide for the Airmen on base.
“We are manning this building 24/7/365,” said Ken Lynn, Guardian Dining Facility food services supervisor. “Rain, snow or shine, it’s what we need to do. We get the folks in here to make sure we can feed our customers and we are more than happy to coordinate with the squadrons to meet mission requirements. If that means boxed lunches or something out of the norm, we’ll find a way to do it.”
DFAC staff have also implemented new procedures to protect the mission-essential workers who depend on the dining facility.
“This virus is an invisible killer,” said Nelson O’Neal, Guardian Dining Facility cook. “We can do our part by already having an understanding that we can’t see it to combat it ahead of time. We are practicing better hand sanitation, we’re wearing masks daily while we serve customers and also wiping surfaces down every hour because we don’t want it to spread.”
Among the adjustments that have been made in the kitchen, new serving measures and customer requirements have kept possible germ exposure to the minimum while increasing the safety of Airmen and cooks.
“We’ve made everything full-service,” Lynn explained. “There is no self-service anything.”
Early in establishing COVID-19 precautions, the DFAC began operating in a “takeout only” capacity. Workers also quickly transitioned to utilizing masks and gloves at all times, including when working the registers and while providing assistance with access to refrigerated items.
“We also put out hand sanitizer stations throughout the dining facility and make it mandatory that customers use these as they come in the building and as they come up to the line,” Lynn said.
These changes have made it possible to provide food for Airmen while reducing the threat of spreading COVID-19, and DFAC employees explained that they’re always on the lookout to improve the safety of those who visit the facility.
Lynn went on to explain how decisions were not only implemented through requirements laid out by Centers for Disease Control and Reduction, or their corporate offices, but also through the requests of commanders located at Creech AFB.
“We discuss the changes the commanders would like to see to help protect their folks,” he said. “That’s why we put things like the six-foot ‘X’ displays on the floor.”
The Guardian Dining Facility workers shared their passion in better serving Hunter Airmen, as well as their understanding for how it can ultimately serve the nation.
“COVID-19 has claimed thousands of lives across our great country, some of those are from our state of Nevada,” said Tech. Sgt. Martin, 432nd Support Squadron NCO in charge. “It is important to take every safety measure to protect not only our warfighters here at Creech, who conduct missions downrange every day, but also to protect our citizens and homeland from the invisible enemy that is COVID-19.”
The MQ-9 aircrew who step into their cockpits are essentially stepping into the fight. They are responsible for saving friendly lives in combat missions overseas. Squadrons around base may have different specialties, such as combat search and rescue, close air support or airdrop overwatch, but each one is critical in neutralizing the enemy and saving lives.
“We can’t afford to have our men and women making life-changing decisions on an empty stomach,” O’Neal said. “You have to eat.”
O’Neal went on to explain how he accomplishes his mission; through the sustainment of those who serve in combat capacities each day.
“Our job is mission-essential, and for those who don’t understand it, at the end of the day we’re here to provide a service just like our (Military) men and women are serving for our safety,” he said. “We need to do the same thing — by keeping them safe and keeping them well.”