When I leave Iraq, one thing I’ll miss is the DFAC. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner: there is an amazing array of foods served in a pleasant environment.
So here is a lunch for me on a typical day. I have to ride my bike over to the DFAC. There are four different DFAC’s on this base, three on the east side (where most people live and work), and one on the west side of the airfield. A normal day for me involves going to breakfast at DFAC #2, close to where I live. Lunch at DFAC #1, because that is the biggest and fanciest. Then dinner at DFAC #3, because that is close to most of the evening hang-outs that I frequent. Note that these places all have names. Nobody uses the names, however, we just call them DFAC 1, 2, 3 or 4.
Yesterday, I ate lunch at DFAC 1. It’s the biggest DFAC on base, and fanciest as well. You enter by passing the Ugandan guards (note the masks they were wearing to protect against the dust storm):
You then enter the main facility. They have clearing barrels which can be used to clear a weapon if you have chambered a round in your weapon. Army personnel are required to wear their weapon in order to enter to eat:
Upon entering, you are required to wash your hands at the hand-washing stations:
Then you must scan your card to the guy at the entrance who will then press his clicker, recording the fact that one more person entered for a meal. This is one of the most boring jobs on this base:
Upon entering, you can join any of a number of meal stations. You pick up a tray, plastic plate, and plastic utensil pack (some silverware is available in DFAC 1 at certain stations, but the disposable plastic ware suits me fine). There is the main line, the short-order (corn-dogs, chicken wings, pizza), the grill with burgers, hotdogs and usually gyros, the sandwich bar, the potato or pasta bar, and the healthy bar. There are also two large salad bars on either side of the dining hall. In short, there is an endless variety of food to eat, and it is very easy to over-indulge. You could eat red meat for each meal of the day if you wanted, and some people do. The portions are large, and the food is well prepared. The novelty has worn off, and I don’t pig out any more, thank goodness.
Here is a view of the main serving line:
And the salad bar:
The sandwich bar has several delicious breads, meats, and a sandwich grill on which to toast your sandwich:
The downfall of many soldiers is the ready availability of desserts. There is both an ice cream bar, and a pastry bar: Here are some photos of the delights that await you at these stations:
The flavors of ice cream are: Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry, Cookies & Cream, Jamoca Almond Fudge, and Pralines and Cream. Same 6 flavors at all 4 DFAC’s:
But the DFAC’s have different ice cream toppings. Each DFAC has certain specialties. At DFAC #3 (my normal dinner spot), they have tiny banana bread bits to put on your ice cream! Here are some of the toppings at DFAC 1:
DFAC 1 holds well over a thousand people, and during lunchtime it is roaring with activity. There are 30,000 personnel who eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and mid-night meals at this base. Here is a photo showing the crowd at lunchtime at DFAC 1:
You may have noticed the servers are all TCN’s (third country nationals). Most are from Nepal, India, or somewhere nearby those countries. They come here to work, and make about $400 a month. They have to pay about $2,000 or $3,000 to an agent just to get here, so they work for free for the first year almost. Some stay for many years working here. They are always friendly, and do a good job of serving. I feel sorry for people in India or Nepal who have such tough economic times that they have to come to Iraq to work for such low pay, however.
Anyway, that is a normal lunchtime here on Joint Base Balad, at DFAC 1. I get a little nervous at DFAC 1. Several years ago, 14 soldiers were killed in a DFAC bombing in Mosul, which is why we have the Ugandan guards standing watch outside each and every DFAC.
So when I eat at DFAC 1, I always go into the healthy bar. This is a small room off to the side where they serve healthier, low-fat foods. I often meet someone I know in here, and can have a nice talk in this quieter environment: