By: Dick Hynes, Director, Consultant Services & Healthcare
The Hennessy Award is the oldest Military foodservice award established in 1957 and named for the late John L. Hennessy, a hotel and restaurant executive who lead a special Hoover Commission Task Group advisory of Military Food Service and Commissaries board to improve military foodservice. The John L. Hennessy Award is named in his honor promoting foodservice excellence between the military and industry experts.
I was fortunate to represent SHFM, then SFM, on the 50th
Anniversary tour in 2006. Our team met for training at Air Force Services Headquarters in San Antonio, Texas on January 28, and returned to the U.S. from Spain on March 2; covering 28,000 miles but feeling wonderful about our country and the men and women who defend it.
Our team consisted of me and three other individuals. None of us had ever met before, and we were going to spend 18 hours a day together for the next 5 weeks.
Our first base visit was Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. When we got to the baggage claim there were 20+ chef-coated staff to meet us. Our luggage was whisked away not to be seen again until we arrived on base. The trip took about 15 minutes, and every fast food restaurant we passed had “Welcome Hennessy Travelers” on their marquis signs.
When we got to the main gate, the gate guards were dressed in chef’s coats and toques (and M-14’s of course!). Once inside, we were escorted to our quarters by base fire trucks and police cars, all with the sirens blaring to lead us to our quarters where a mariachi band and traditional Spanish dancers entertained us. Wow, would it be like this at every base? For the most part, the answer was yes.
Each base does its best to impress the evaluation team, although NONE of the hoopla has an impact on the 1038 scoring system. Our tour took us to missile bases in Wyoming, numerous refueling bases, Yakota Air Base in Japan for 4 days, a central base for supplies headed to the war zone, to Andrews AFB in Virginia, a United Nations base in Spain, and the winning base in 2006 was Travis Air Force base in California.
You might wonder, of the hundreds of items on the 1038 how the team decides on who will provide what area of expertise. The senior enlisted and officers know all the Air Force Protocols and systems. They spend most of their time reviewing record keeping, inventory procedures, training documentation and readiness (after all these Air Force cooks are trained to fight as well!) and a host of other areas.
Given that the civilian team members are not as familiar with these areas, we spend much of our time on sanitation, cooking procedures, following production logs, observing all kitchen techniques, evaluating receiving and storage procedures and a host of other areas. At the conclusion of each day and again at the end of the evaluation for that base, the team checks and rechecks their individual scores so that the team leader can submit one scorecard, which the whole team signs.
The team submits their suggestions for improvement as part of their submittal, but also offers suggestions, always in a positive manner, throughout the evaluation. At the conclusion of an evaluation, an Out-Brief is held, where each member of the team will talk about their observations to the entire dining facility team as well as base command staff, again, always keeping it positive.
On most bases, about 30 percent of the force was deployed at any one time leaving the remainder to cover for them as well as maintain their fitness levels, training levels, and readiness to fight. Many are married with kids, yet their dedication as war-fighters is remarkable.
We witnessed airmen who looked like they should be in high school flying billion dollar jet fighters, refueling fighters at 30,000 feet, completely running the air control tower at Travis AFB, and just doing things that would never happen in the civilian world. It was an honor just to be able to spend time with them.
The HTA program now provides a connection, a connection from the civilian world to the military world in foodservice. Great relationships are developed through this program. Generals connect with leaders of our industry and the exchange ideas benefit both parties. It is amazing to see what happens as our traveler members experience this connection.
From the onset, our organization has been a Hennessy partner, right from that first tour providing Travelers, and funding per diems for them years ago. When I traveled, I saw a number of SHFM plaques awarded
to bases many years ago which they still display.
These folks do what we do! They feed hundreds of thousands of meals each day, and try to make the food and dining experience as great as they can. Their hot buttons are the same as ours. While some may only have 4 years’ experience, others will have 20 or more. These folks are prime management material. Are we accessing them for our positions?
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we are giving them a little something back. If you don’t get a little shiver when you hear the Star Spangled Banner, or feel the sorrow that goes with a 21 gun salute followed by the presentation of a coffin flag to a loved one at a military funeral, or feel pride when you see a military color guard go by, then maybe I am speaking to the wrong group, but I know SHFM. I have been here a very long time. We are a highly patriotic organization and I believe that our members feel that serving those who serve us is important to do.
View the SHFM members who have served as Traveler’s