Feb. 11, 2008 - The Afghan kitchen opened the sailor's eyes, and the smoke made them sting. Even fans that run 24 hours a day can't keep up with the smoke from a dozen or more wood-burning stoves at the new Afghan National Army dining facility here. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class David Crabb, of Navy Embedded Training Team 3-205th Garrison, has been helping the Afghan National Army improve their food service at the Shorabak Garrison dining facility since he arrived in September.
Mentoring the Afghan kitchen staff requires experience and initiative. Crabb has both. The former submarine sailor has 26 years of food service experience, 16 with the Navy. During a 10-year break in active service, he worked as a manager and trainer in a deli and bakery for a supermarket chain, which he said helps him mentor here.
Crabb also returned to his basic Navy culinary training to teach the Afghans. In fact, he uses a Navy supply publication as a reference for instructing them on food preparation, hygiene and sanitation.
Sanitation is particularly important, because most of the Afghans troops' food is prepared on site. While the facility itself may be new, many of the methods that the cooks use aren't. It's not unusual to see bare-handed cooks, or butchers chopping up beef on the ground with an axe.
The team's medical mentor, Navy Lt. Paul Shattuck, arranged for an Afghan army doctor to teach a class on personal hygiene. Simple steps like hand washing are important because they can easily reduce the risk of pathogens and food-borne illnesses. There was an outbreak of dysentery shortly before the team arrived, but none since its members began their mentoring.
Process improvements made by the team have helped the Afghans become better organized. The dining facility staff now holds a morning formation at 9 a.m., for instance, and has a chart to help them understand their chain of command and duties.
This level of organization may be typical for the Navy, but it is new for the Afghans. Until Crabb's team got here, the facility didn't even have personnel assigned to clean up after meals. He got them that additional help from Afghan army battalions at Shorabak.
"We're trying to show them how to be organized, not shove regulations down their throat," he said.
The team also has made facility improvements. On this particular day, a welder's sparks flew from the bottom of an overturned sink as Crabb stood talking with Abdul Sami, his Afghan counterpart. They stopped to watch workers attach new filters under sinks that had been prone to clogging with food. Crabb had researched and submitted a request for the system as a way to prevent that.
He also devised a drainage system for liquid waste from the butcher shop and leveled a flood-prone area behind the building.
Plans for the dining facility include converting it to gas-burning stoves. The Afghan cooks have never used gas before and have been reluctant to give up their wood-burning stoves, but when the smoke clears, this sailor said he thinks they'll see the light.
(From a Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan news release.)