Southern cooking brings Airmen together

  • Published
  • By Maj. Jennifer Piggott
  • AFMAO Public Affairs
The Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations deployed Religious Support Team hosted a home-cooked dinner Feb. 19 as part of the AFMAO chapel resiliency program.

The dinner is based on a needs assessment performed at the beginning of each RST's deployed rotation, which in this case provided a home-cooked southern style meal for the month of February. The meal consisted of pot roast and vegetables, chicken and dumplings, collard greens, macaroni and cheese and lemon sweet tea. It was topped off with home-made apple crisp and vanilla ice cream, as well as chocolate mousse.

Everything served at the chapel dinner was made from scratch by Chaplain (Capt.) Ryan Ayers, Master Sgt. Jennifer Zuniga, Master Sgt. Christopher Stutz and Airman Kashana Bratten.

"Chapel dinners are an opportunity for us to provide resiliency to the deployed Airmen by giving them home-cooked meals, as well as giving a welcome break to frozen meals and the dining facility," said Chaplain (Capt.) Ryan Ayers, AFMAO deployed chaplain from Joint Base Charleston, S.C. "There is nothing better than seeing the Airmen take a break from the high ops tempo mission long enough to enjoy some home cooked food and relax a little bit while they are away from their loved ones," added Ayers.

At the mortuary, the dinners are for those deployed in support of this sacred mission, which consists of approximately 40 Air Force members from active duty, the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve.

"It was great to see AFMAO come together as one group and have the chance to enjoy a home-cooked meal and good conversation," said Senior Airman Sedrick Sam, deployed to AFMAO from the 459th Air Refueling Wing, Andrews AFB, Md. "I hope we get to do it again before I leave here," added Sam.

The dinners are a monthly resiliency event and are funded by Headquarters Air Force Chaplain Corps, Chapel Tithes and Offering Fund, which is a contribution from all Air Force Chapels to support deployed chapel programs around the world.

"Eating together is something that naturally allows people to relax regardless of the mission and work positions and make important connections. These dinners allow Airmen to be themselves and get to know each other better, which builds that needed camaraderie for our unique mission," said Master Sgt. Jennifer Zuniga, a chaplain assistant deployed to AFMAO from The Office of the Chief of Chaplains, Washington, D.C.

The dinners are one part of a larger chapel resiliency program that includes a monthly resiliency trip, two spiritual fitness classes each week and a weekly donut and devotion program. The donut and devotion program occurs each Sunday and gives Airmen the opportunity to ask the Chaplain questions they might have about faith and spirituality, in addition to a short devotion.

The next dinner is scheduled for March 19 and will consist of an Italian menu, with three types of lasagna, garlic bread, vegetables and dessert.