132nd Fighter Wing Serves up Disaster Relief
By Tech. Sgt. Sara Robinson, 132 Fighter Wing
/ Published August 23, 2013
Des Moines, Iowa -- In a disaster every second counts for first responders. Firefighters, search and rescue, and medical professionals get to the scene as soon as possible to ensure that the citizens are being helped. In many situations the first responders find themselves in so much wreckage that one of their own basic necessities is not available, Food. Working long hours in austere conditions can take a toll on the body and mind and that is where the 132nd Fighter Wing Services Branch can help.
132nd FW recently, earned the honor of receiving one of only five of the Babington, Disaster Relief Mobile Kitchen Trailer (DRMKT) units for National Guard use. Divided by FEMA regions, the DRMKT is designed to support the first responder's primary mission - reacting quickly to contingency disasters. Food cooked and served rapidly is morale-boosting and a key logistical component of any first response. Taking a huge step in customer service support, services branch was issued this cutting edge new 'smart kitchen'.
"The best thing about working with the Air National Guard is that their open to new ideas. A lot of the equipment that's been used out there has been around since World War 2. So the new technology, sometimes it's a hard thing to implement. With everybody being open minded it helps to evolve the technology," says Ramiro Andrade, "Junior" Product Manager, Babington Technologies.
The outdated Single Pallet Expeditionary Kitchen (SPEK) is not only cumbersome to set up, it's dangerous and time consuming. The days of lugging around heavy field tents and equipment are over. The SPEK system was not only outdated, it was not safe; due to heat conditions and fumes.
"We would have to set up the tents, put down the floors, haul the heavy equipment from the pallet to inside the kitchen. After all of that, we could finally start warming up the ovens. For the DRMKT you just open it up and go. This is just so much more efficient," explains Staff Sgt. Jessica Thomas, Services Cook Supervisor.
Where the SPEK would take hours after notification to set up, the DRMKT takes mere minutes. Now they react more quickly and have the kitchen pre heated and ready to cook en route. The DRMKT will run on Diesel, Kerosene or JP-8 so no matter what the fuel source will be at the location services can keep working. That way, services can deploy to a disaster area and get right to cooking. With the DRMKT they can feed 1,000 people in less than 90 minutes.
"The neat thing about this is that it's easily adaptable to any situation that you might run into. You may not have a certain fuel available or the type of food supplied could be limited. You can do all kinds of "A" rations, "B" rations, and even fresh food. It doesn't take a lot of training it can be used with common sense. If you have some cooking experience you're pretty much able to work in this kitchen," says Andrade.
Not only does the DRMKT offer hearty meals, it also helps with the moral of kitchen staff. It is designed to keep the heat from the ovens out of the kitchen. Services members are now safer and more comfortable during their long hours of preparing and serving meals.
"Being a smart kitchen, it tells you if your grill water is full, if you need more fuel, if you need more potable water. It even has an i-pod jack. Everything is cool to touch, unless you put your hand right on the griddle it's not going to burn you. It's perfect. No open flames whatsoever," says Thomas.
This is mostly in thanks to the kitchen's closed burner combustion system. It completely eliminates dangerous levels of heat buildup, exhaust fumes, and noise. Representatives from Babington Technologies travel to the 5 locations nationwide to train Airmen on how to use the DRMKT. They discuss functions of the kitchen, safety, and all of the features that make everyone's life after a disaster a little more tolerable.
"We looked at practical things when designing this kitchen. We try to use as much of the space as wisely as possible. There is storage space behind the warming cabinets and a conveyor belt where you can store extra water. Wherever you go in a disaster, you can use water. With this trailer, if you have fuel and water you are self-sustained," says Andrede.
132nd FW is now more prepared to assist local and regional communities in case of a catastrophic event. Having the capability based in Des Moines shows that the 132nd is a trustworthy organization for housing this crucial piece of equipment.
"I think that speaks wonders about our base, as a whole. By having this capability in the aftermath of a disaster, communities are going to need us. We will now be able to get out there and get everyone fed in a fast and efficient manner," says Thomas.