SOUTHWEST ASIA --
The gatekeepers for all things required for human consumption on The Rock are the food inspectors from the 719th Medical Detachment Veterinary Services and the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group.
The food inspectors’ primary mission is to reduce the risks to public health associated with diseases and other health hazards in food that is designated for more than 3,000 Airmen, Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and contractors.
“In food safety, preventive medicine is the name of the game,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. James Rodenberg, 386th Expeditionary Medical Group public health technician. “We aim to limit illness on our installation before it happens by promoting good personal hygiene across the base and ensuring our facilities are operating in accordance with governing regulations.”
Rodenberg inspects the dining facilities on base, without notice, two times per month. He inspects cooked and stored food as well as cleaning solutions for food preparation areas.
“When I inspect, I hold the facilities accountable for discrepancies,” said Rodenberg who deployed from the 96thAerospace Medicine Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida and is a Crestview, Florida native. “I also rely heavily on the rapport and positive working relationships I have built with those facility managers.”
As a public health technician, Rodenberg believes that it’s important to have relationships which allow public health and facility managers to cooperate with the same goal in mind of preventing disease and promoting health.
While Rodenberg inspects the food in the dining facility, he works closely with food inspectors from the Army who inspect the food that is shipped to the base.
“I am responsible for food safety and food defense of any Department of Defense facilities,” said Army Spc. Juanetta Goldwire, a food inspector who deployed from the 719th MDVS, Fort Sheridan, Illinois. “My duty is to do whatever it takes to prevent any food deficiencies that will present an imminent health hazard.”
Whenever food is delivered it is the responsibility of Goldwire, a Richmond, Virginia native, and fellow inspectors to ensure that the trucks in which the food is delivered is in compliance with Defense Logistics Agency contractual agreements.
The first step of inspecting the trucks is to ensure that they arrived with their seal intact. The military food inspectors including Goldwire and the rations warehouse team inspect them together. The rations warehouse stores all the food that is designated for the dining facility, said Goldwire.
Goldwire has a systematic way she goes about her inspections. She ensures that the seal matches the seal number on the invoice. Once the seal is removed, the next thing she checks is the temperature on refrigerated trucks using a hand held thermometer.
“I check the ambient temperatures inside of the conveyance to make sure that it’s compliant,” said Goldwire. “And I also look at the production and expiration dates to make sure that the product is not expired.”
Every food product can become a health hazard, Goldwire explained, however, mostly chilled products are susceptible to pathogenic microorganisms which can cause sickness and even death.
“That’s why we hold our prime vendor to our contractual agreements and that means when chilled products such as sour cream, milk and eggs are delivered the temperatures must be between 32 to 41 degrees Fahrenheit,” said Goldwire. “My favorite part of the job is working with the rations warehouse team when inspecting trucks.”
The inspection team checks everything that’s delivered to ensure it doesn’t include unsatisfactory products or deteriorating fresh fruits and vegetables.
“Sometimes, I may have to refuse products if they present a health hazard and I have to hold suppliers accountable to their contracts with the DLA,” said Goldwire.
In addition to the food trucks, Goldwire, who has been in the Army for five years, and Rodenberg both inspect the Army and Air Force Exchange Service and all AAFES concessionaires at The Rock to ensure that food is safe and wholesome for consumption.