SANGIHE, Indonesia (June 13, 2012) - There are certain duties on board a ship that must be performed for the greater good of the crew. They are not always duties a person will see on recruiting commercials, but the performance of these duties has a direct impact on the health, morale and well being of the ship’s crew. One of these duties is that of a Food Service Attendant, or FSA.
FSA’s are temporarily assigned (TAD) to work in support of the ship’s culinary specialists. FSAs might serve food, clean and set up any one of the various ship’s dining facilities or, depending on their rank, may supervise other FSAs to maintain the processes needed to supply the kitchen and feed the crew.
FSA’s are usually assigned to their duties knowing that after a prescribed period of time, generally a couple of months, they will return to their original jobs. It’s not very common for a Sailor to volunteer for FSA duty because of the long hours and dedication that is required. However, in the eyes of many, serving as an FSA is a rite of passage for Sailors and leaves a lasting impression for those whom they serve.
For two Corpsmen aboard the USNS Mercy, being an FSA is a part of a mission they are proud to perform.
Hospitalman Brent Babcock and Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Tanysha Simmons will serve aboard USNS Mercy as FSAs throughout the duration of Pacific Partnership (PP12).
Babcock, who is stationed at Camp Pendleton Naval Hospital, said the job may not be the most glamorous job in the Navy, but it is easily one of the most important.
“In the galley we like to use the saying, ‘crew got to eat,’ because this job is hard work. It involves long hours and it has to be done,” said Babcock. “But on this PP12 mission there is something different. The patients ‘got to eat’ too.”
Along with over 1,000 crew members that eat in the mess decks, are approximately 500 patients, escorts, subject matter expert exchange personnel and translators – all of whom – in the words of the FSAs, “got to eat.”
The FSAs view their time supporting food service as an opportunity to try new things.
If you were to compare the administration of food service on a U.S. Navy ship to that of a civilian restaurant, you would quickly see certain parallels. At a restaurant, a chef will run the kitchen. It is the same on a ship – U.S. Navy Culinary Specialists run the kitchen.
Pacific Partnership 2012’s mess deck Master-at-Arms is Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Tanysha Simmons. She is in charge of keeping order in the mess decks, as well as organizing the other FSAs in support of feeding the crew.
Simmons is currently stationed at Naval Medical Center San Diego, where she was the senior enlisted leader of two hospital clinics and supervised 108 active duty Sailors and civilians.
“People mistake me for a Culinary Specialist all the time,” Simmons said with a smile. “When I tell them I am a Corpsman, they ask if I got into trouble, or did something to make my command mad enough to send me as an FSA.”
“Then when I tell them I am here by choice, they think I am crazy!”
“I am tired of the stigma that FSAs are dirt bags or that their commands only want to get rid of them.”
“Myself and my counterpart, for instance, are both early promote Sailors, so when I hear that the only Sailors here are the bad ones, I take it personally.”
“The FSAs I work with are motivated, and hard working, and they are here by choice, not by punishment.”
She said for the most part, FSAs and everyone else working in the galley receive a lot of praise and accolades for the meals and services they provide.
“I see it as a good sign when the lines are long each day,” said Simmons.
Babcock and Simmons, along with the other FSAs working on the mess decks of Pacific Partnership 2012 do their jobs with pride. They know that their jobs are necessary to maintain a floating hospital forward deployed in support of the largest humanitarian civic assistance mission in the Asia Pacific region.
Pacific Partnership is an annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic action exercise designed to work with and through host nations to build partnerships and a collective ability to respond to natural disasters. This year’s mission includes 18 partner nations, approximately 21 nongovernmental organizations and hundreds of joint-service and civilian mariner participants.
For more information about the PP12 mission, please visit the Pacific Partnership Blog or engage with Pacific Partnership on Facebook and Twitter.