The Nutrition Expo and BBQ Cook-off shared the same time slot Wednesday on Fort Stewart for Marne Week competitions and exhibits.
Though there was no intention for the events to compete, it was clear more visitors were interested in pleasing their taste buds than protecting their heart.
“We would like to change the way people view food, nutrition and fitness,” Expo coordinator Sarah Lopez explained. “We want to show people what foods are most healthy and better ways to get into shape and stay fit.”
During the Expo at the Corkan Teen Center, Capt. Jill Fowler, a dietitian with Winn Army Community Hospital, explained what foods are healthy to individuals and groups of two or three soldiers or family members. She focused on foods and sports drinks some people think are healthy. She said many of these items are not healthy due to the high levels of sugar or fat.
Angela Roberts, an RN with Winn, checked blood pressure and tested for cholesterol and glucose. She advised those with high readings to schedule a formal medical exam.
Other health-care professionals helped soldiers and family members learn about proper footwear for hiking and jogging, as well as activities to promote physical fitness.
In another room, TriCare representatives provided literature about military health-care benefits. Representatives of Stewart’s Dental Activity Command had information about dental health and gave away toothbrushes. And representatives from Stewart’s commissary gave away coupons for healthy snacks and offered literature about healthy foods available at the commissary.
In the field behind the teen center, large crowds were drawn by the smell of pork ribs and chicken smoking slowly on the grill. Compared to the few people taking part in the Expo, hundreds browsed among the grills of 23 teams competing in the Cook-off and hoped to sample a saucy rib or piece of chicken.
Sgt. Marcus Hunt, 3rd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, accommodated requests for samples of his ribs. He and Staff Sgt. David Jones, along with other members of their unit, maintained three grills at once.
One of their grills was homemade, fabricated from a 50-gallon drum. Small cuts of pork ribs smothered in chopped Georgia peaches cooked on this grill. The ribs’ smoke caught the attention of passers-by, who took pictures and enjoyed the smoky-sweet aroma.
Sgt. Robert Bonds, a Texan with experience competing in barbeque competitions, was lead chef for 1st Battalion, 76th Field Artillery. As he maintained two Char-Broil smokers and one smaller grill, he lamented that the competition did not include his specialty, brisket.
“My ribs and chicken will be done right at 3:30 p.m.,” he said as he added wood to a smoker. “Turn-in time is 3:45. I have it down to a science so the meat doesn’t finish cooking too soon. I wish they’d have included brisket and Boston butts. That’s what I used to cook at cook-offs back home in Texas.”
Specialists Jeremy Newman and Adam Ward maintained the grill for 385th Military Police Battalion. In addition to ribs and chicken, they cooked hot dogs and a Boston butt for lunch by 385th MPs.
“We have 23 teams competing today,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Luis Pineo, 3rd Sustainment Brigade and officer in charge of the cook-off. “They can cook anything they want for themselves, but we’ll only be judging pork ribs and chicken. This is the first year we’ve had this type of competition for Marne Week. The Georgia BBQ Association provided us with guidance for set-up and judging rules.”
Pineo said the meats were judged on appearance, tenderness, taste and overall impression.
Top prizes went to 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team’s 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery. The 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s 703 Brigade Support Battalion took second, and 1st HBCT’s 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery took third.