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A taste of home

 

Written by Sgt. 1st Class Pete Mayes
101st Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (AA) Public Affairs

101st Sustainment Brigade - LifelinersFort Campbell KY, 101st Airborne DivisionBagram Airfield, Afghanistan – A little home cooking went a long way for service members stationed at Bagram Air Field recently as they were treated to the taste of down-home Cajun cuisine and live entertainment.

A team of chefs and entertainers from Houston teamed up for “Operation H.O.T.” (Honoring Our Troops), serving spicy cuisine from the Texas-Louisiana border to feed and entertain the service members stationed at BAF.

Show promoter and creator, Charles Carroll, said the group’s intent was simple: entertain the finest troops in the world with some of the best talent in the world while bringing them a taste of home with a Cajun meal.

Chef Rick Moonen shows off his culinary skills during “Operation H.O.T.” at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. The event, which stands for “Honoring Our Troops," was intended to provide service members with home-cooked Cajun meals and entertainment. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Peter Mayes)

Chef Rick Moonen shows off his culinary skills during “Operation H.O.T.” at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. The event, which stands for “Honoring Our Troops," was intended to provide service members with home-cooked Cajun meals and entertainment. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Peter Mayes)

“It’s all about home. It’s not just a show or something we want to do. Our full intent is to touch the hearts of everyone here,” he said. “That’s why we have taste from home, that’s why we have food from home, and that’s why we have talent from home.”

For soldiers like Master Sgt. Jernell Logan, a disbursing agent with the 101st Sustainment Brigade, the meaning of the event was not lost.

“I’m glad we have this type of entertainment and encouragement for the troops,” she said. “I’m glad these outlets are available to us. It helps people remember that we are serving our country.”

Charles, the executive chef at the River Oaks Country Club in Houston, TX, said the group has been working on the event for more than one year. The idea for Operation H.O.T. was conceived three years ago with another chef and a retired general who wanted to travel to Afghanistan and feed the troops.

“The concept kept stalling, and after being invited on the team, I decided this was now on my bucket list,” Carroll said. “We recognize that we came here willingly, but that our troops do this for a living. There’s a lot that you give us by your sacrifice, so we felt it was our turn to come here and give back.”

“Operation H.O.T.” featured a diverse range of entertainment, including Jay Leno- impersonator Marcel Forestieri, hypnotist The Incredible Boris, and U2 Tribute band, “Mysterious Ways.”

A highlight of the event was “Bagram’s Iron Chef” competition, featuring two renowned chefs, Rick Moonen and Rick Tramonto dazzling the crowd with their culinary expertise. The chefs, who were also featured on Bravo TV’s, “Top Chef Masters” television program, also competed head-to-head to determine who could prepare a better food dish using content from a Meals Ready to Eat packet.

The troops were not only the honored guest at the event; they also helped provide entertainment. Army Reservist Sgt. Harold Dudley of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, helped kick off the ceremony by singing the national anthem.

“I’m very honored I got to do this,” he said.

Dudley is often seen walking around BAF and singing to himself. “I haven’t got in trouble for it yet, so I guess it’s OK,” he said.

A native of Des Moines, IA, Dudley said he has sung since he was a child and attended Drake University to study music. He said he is planning on completing his six –year military commitment and finish his studies in music.

“I think this (Operation H.O.T.) is an awesome program. It’s an opportunity to eat something different and hang out people that we normally would not. Plus, it’s Cajun food – who wants to pass that up?” he said.


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