Tales from the DEFAC (Dining Facility)

Erik Woessner

There is an old saying that the Army travels on its stomach. It is true that a hot meal can boost flagging morale, and certainly gives soldiers a chance to relax and unwind a little. However, just like every other part of the big green machine, sometimes the DEFAC hits a little snag now and then. Here are a few of the hijinks and incidents that I can recall during my time in the Service.

One Generator, Two Cans

During one particularly stressful field problem, 4-1 BSTB was conducting training at Fort Polk, Louisiana. As such, our mess section was the highlight of our day—that, and the occasional alligator and poisonous snake/ spider sighting, but I digress… Anyway, we were at the midpoint of our field problem, and everyone was looking forward to hot chow with about the same level of enthusiasm as we would being reunited with a long-lost relation. So, that evening as we arrived at the mess, and what did we see? Several sheepish-looking cooks and nothing but salad (anyone who has had an army salad knows it’s 90% iceberg lettuce mix and not much else.) PB&J and a few snacks. Naturally, we were sore distressed! Hot chow, even bad hot chow, is always a morale booster.

Later, we discovered why we had no hot chow that night, or any hot food for the next two days. As it turned out, the cooks had somehow managed to pour five gallons of water into their generator instead of JP8. This is despite the fact that water cans and fuel cans have a different cap and handle configuration, and are of course, distinctly labeled, and the fact that the SOP states the two are not to be stored near each other.  We eventually learned that the culprit was one of the mess sergeants who had made a mistake.  The moral of the story is that even E-5s make mistakes and one should always pack an emergency supply of ramen noodles.

 To Eat or Not to Eat.

Food is one of the most often talked about subjects in the Army –usually regarding how lousy it is. But despite the argument, most of us appreciated having it. Unfortunately, sometimes our DEFAC warriors make a minor miscalculation, and the result is as follows.

While at NTC in beautiful Fort Irwin( those of you who have been there know I’m lying now) I was part of S-6.  We were heading to get chow after a long day of putting out commo fires– only to discover that our unit had “forgotten” about us and had made no provision for feeding us. Talk about a bad start to NTC. We made do with white bread and mushy peas that night. Fortunately, we did have a stash of MREs in the back of the truck, so it wasn’t a total disaster. The moral of the story is always bring peanut butter and jelly with you to the field… just in case.

 DFAC Basics

People often complain about how little time they have for lunch, that they spend more time getting to and from chow than they do eating it. Well, depending on when and where you went to Basic, you learned the luxury of time was in very short supply. At Fort Jackson, during Basic, we had about ten minutes to eat. We had to wait until everyone had their trays then, and I stress only then, did we get to eat and our Drill Sergeants were always keeping an eye on us. If they felt we weren’t enthusiastic enough, then they got us out early. We normally had about ten minutes to eat, which I can assure you, is plenty of time to empty your tray, and of course, not ask too many questions about what you were eating.

If that weren’t vexing enough, we would often have to earn our meal by answering questions or recite the Soldiers Creed or sing the Army song, give a war cry, or receive the fundamentals of marksmanship… It was not unusual to have a change of plans– sometimes we ended up having our chow times changed because another training platoon needed to go first. So, when you complain about your lunch hour, take a moment to remember those poor soldiers in Basic and their hardships.




Our Museum Celebrates One Year on Route 66!

On July 9, 2017, the Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center (MAMF) will have been in its current location on Route 66 for one year. Open on weekends and by appointment, 882 people have visited us. Our small all-volunteer board works hard to make our museum a relevant and welcoming presence, locally and online.

Since last July, MAMF has:

  • Hosted a monthly “Mid-Month Movie” series
  • Created and exhibited “GI Jokes: a Somewhat Light-Hearted Look at Military Life (now permanently on display at MAMF)
  • Published our first anthology “From the Front Lines to the HomeFront: New Mexicans Reflect on War”
  • Hosted numerous reading and discussion groups
  • Conducted transformative papermaking workshops (Fatigues to Flags) for women veterans
  • Sponsored and coordinated events for the New Mexico Midway Route leg of Run For the Wall motorcycle event
  • Hosted 3 Naturalization ceremonies
  • Built and dedicated a Memorial to Military Families, located in Santa Fe, New Mexico

What does the rest of the year look like?

  • We are wrapping up our call for your stories for our two anthologies, “SHOUT: Sharing our Truth” and “War Child: Lessons Learned Growing Up in War” as well as our cookbook. (These will be published in October and November 2017)
  • Our fifth exhibit, “Inside Out” will open in October 2017
  • We are creating our sixth exhibit, “Host Nation Hospitality” which will open some time in December

We have done this through memberships, some arts and humanities grants and through donations from regular folks who want to help us continue to preserve and share our unique culture…

Please get involved!

  • Share our museum Facebook page with your friends and family, visit our website and check out our many blogs, podcasts and other social media.
  • Send us a favorite written memory to share on our blogs and preserve in our special collection library
  • Become a member, or donate to our memorial fund.
  • If you are cleaning out your attic or garage and you come across military family memorabilia you no long want—please consider donating it to MAMF.

We thank you all for your support of our very special museum…It’s been a wonderful year!


Request Operation Footlocker for your school reunion!


The Long Journey Examining the Past: Heartache & Happiness

I wrote a humorous book a couple of years ago called ORLY. The title is slang for “Oh, Really”. That is what people say after they read the stories. I’ve lived a very full life and it has been filled with unusual events. Many of my readers are convinced that most of the stories are embellished or straight out fantasy. I have received many requests for an ORLY 2 but unless you know Oprah Winfrey personally, selling a book is next to impossible. When Circe Olson Woessner, a brat that is involved with the Museum of the American Family found out that I’m an author, she offered to share the book on her blog to see if maybe she could get some sales for me. At the same time, she asked me to write a little bit about my brat history to share with the Museum. She said they are looking to hear our voices. I’m disappointed that what I have written is a little bleak. I wish I could have been just a little bit more upbeat but my voice needed to be honest for the words to ring true. Here is my story.

I’m an Army Brat and have just started the long journey of facing the past. I’ve been reading about other military brats and our stories are all the same. The thing I find strange is that none of them would change their childhood. There are parts of mine that I remember fondly but, overall, what I remember from mine is one heartbreak after another. Read the rest of this entry »

We would like your stories for a new anthology


MAMF Looking for “Brat Liaison”

The Museum of the American Military Family is looking for a volunteer Brat Liaison to join our team. This is a virtual position, so the candidate can live anywhere. The ideal candidate should be comfortable with social media, be active in Brat Communities, both on-line and in his/her local area. The candidate should be willing to write articles for blogs and newsletters and be creative, independent and interested in fulfilling the museum’s mission.

Interested candidates should send a letter of interest/qualifications with contact to: Director, MAMF
Subject line- Brat Liaison

to the following email:

MAMF Special Exhibit on April 7