Community Heroes

Wardroom Staff

by Margaret Brown from the
United States Coast Guard Academy

More than Quesadillas and Lobster

They come to work everyday. In rain, snow, sun and wind, the staff members of the United States Coast Guard Academy wardroom find their way to 15 Mohegan Avenue day in and day out. Some early birds arrive at the crack of dawn, others are night owls, making their way back home long past children’s bedtimes after working the dinner shift. The truth is, over 900 people live at the Coast Guard Academy, and at least three times a day, all 900 plus people have rumbling stomachs that look forward to the biscuits and gravy, or the chicken patties, or the tuna wraps.

During meals served “family style” cadets enter the wardroom, food is served, cadets scarf down food, ask for seconds and the staff members quickly grab whatever they can get to satisfy their hungry cadets. This process, normally done for breakfast and dinner, would be seen as complete chaos to the outsider, is a highly organized and efficient evolution- all done within minutes’ time.

During meals served “buffet style” cadets meander through the wardroom during a 2 hour period. An array of freshly cooked food is available during the 2 hour time slot and cadets enjoy imbibing and consuming the drinks and food prepared by the wardroom staff.

We know them all by face. Others, such as Bernie and Uncle Bob, have become ‘Chase Hall- hold names.’ Some of us say a quick ‘hello’ in passing, some of us give them a smile. Our lives are busy with school work, sports and friends and sometimes it doesn’t occur to us to thank those that we know will always be there. It’s not that we don’t appreciate the wardroom, it’s just that we are so accustomed to their hospitality that we sometimes forget to express our gratitude towards them. But believe me when I say that we are appreciative- just ask the cadets that were lucky enough to come back from liberty early last Sunday and surprised to see a lobster dinner being served in the wardroom!

So what makes the men and women of the wardroom the unsung heroes of the Academy? It’s not just the long hours they work, or the satisfaction that they provide to the hungry cadets, it is their humbleness, kindness, and caring that makes the wardroom staff members unsung heroes of the United States Coast Guard Academy. They are generous and helpful, happy and polite and their work often goes unnoticed. They give us smiles and food. They know who the vegetarians are and who’s allergic to milk. They know which tables like wheat bread and which like white and some even know that the tie for my favorite dinner is between the Tuna BLT wrap and the Thanksgiving Day wrap (not necessarily served on Thanksgiving!) When we spill something, they clean it up; when we want strawberry jelly, they bring us grape too just in case we change our mind; when we want chicken fingers for an excusal lunch in Leamy Hall, we get the fingers. They work with vigor and positive attitudes. They have even been spotted dancing to music while cleaning up our dirty dishes.

I recently sat down with a few of the wardroom staff members during a break between breakfast and lunch. As they happily chatted and munched on some leftovers, I inquired into their personal lives. As a 20 year old with the responsibility of only myself being difficult at times, I wondered, “How could wardroom staff members maintain the working hours required of them and still raise a family?” After some giggles, one lady spoke up and said, “you make it work; you find a way.” The ladies then explained to me that it’s not an issue to many of them anymore because the wardroom staff currently consists largely of grandparents. I thought it was interesting to find out that a tight knit, yet large group of the wardroom staff started out years ago as parents of young children. The group managed to stay together, and now they are together enjoying the grandparent years.

On being asked what the most difficult meal to prepare is, Lead Cook Mr. Ball assuredly replied, “quesadillas.” After I chuckled and said, “well that’s interesting, because that’s also a favorite of the cadets’”, he proudly smiled and simply stated, “I know.” Why does Mr. Ball spend three days preparing 1200 to1400 quesadillas for ‘quesadilla lunch day?’ I’ve got a hunch that it’s not because he enjoys chopping the chicken or melting the cheese, or the enjoyment of arriving at work every morning around 4:30 AM. I’ve got a hunch that it has to do with Mr. Ball’s smile knowing that he makes cadets happy.

Soon after lunch and breakfast are served, cadets quickly raise their hands, signifying the desire for seconds. The wardroom staff members in charge of the cadets’ table quickly try to grab and leftovers and deliver what they can to their tables. It seems to me that as the many members of the wardroom staff hustle into the kitchen to grab another loaf of bread or some more French fries that a certain bond has developed between the wardroom staff members and the cadets seated at their table. This bond resembles that of a mother making sure her growing children eat plenty of food, leaving the table full and content.

Take Ms. Dazey for example. Ms. Dazey was formerly a wardroom supervisor till she and her husband, a chief in the Navy, moved to Japan. After a few years in Japan, Ms. Dazey and her husband came back to the United States and she began working at the Academy once again. She enjoyed her years as supervisor of the wardroom, however, when she came back to the United States Ms. Dazey was drawn to a position that brought her closer to the action and the cadets. She says that she enjoys working in the wardroom, despite spending all of last Monday slicing turkey for the turkey melt lunch! Or take Ms. Hudson as an example. She recently had knee surgery, but despite this, she comes to work every day, and does it with a smile. While many other people would explain about having to spend a large portion of their day on their feet after going through knee surgery, Ms. Hudson is a positive thinker and inspiration to us all at the Academy.

What draws the wardroom staff to wake up early and go to bed late? What makes them want to work in the cadet wardroom, rather than the All Hands Dining Facility that feeds the adults of the Academy? Maybe it’s the special bond that they develop with the cadets sitting at their tables, knowing that they are the first food providers since Mom and Dad, or maybe it’s knowing that even though we don’t always express it, we really like them and we even see them as our heroes.

-Hailing from Long Island, NY, Margaret is in her junior year at the United States Coast Guard Academy. During her limited free time, she enjoys relaxing on hot beaches, yoga, and watching romantic comedies. Margaret eats her cereal with orange juice in it instead of milk and looks forward to wraps from the wardroom every night for dinner.

Page created on 4/28/2006 5:48:20 PM

Last edited 1/20/2019 7:47:00 PM

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