Although all U.S. Army dining facilities follow the same guidelines to ensure consistency across military installations, in the Raider dining facility on Fort Stewart, the soldiers who work there live by a simple motto: “Never take away, but you can always add to!”
During the past few years, the Raider DFAC has been managed by a few forward-thinking people within the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, who wanted to ensure their facility stood out on Stewart and within the Army. One of those people is Sgt. 1st Class Demetrius Jackson, a cook by profession and by passion.
Jackson has been cooking his entire life and brings nearly 20 years of military experience to the Raider DFAC. He aims to ensure the products the facility offers not only meet the Army’s standard, but exceed it.
“We want to do something different in this brigade than any brigade in the Army,” Jackson said. “We are not competing against anyone, because we are all one team, but we want to look different than anybody else.”
Among the ways the Raider DFAC is working to stand out is its inclusion of a full-sized, steel smoker that is used throughout the week.
“Nobody else on Stewart has a real steel smoker,” Jackson said. “We use it for the meal every Thursday. The customers love it, and that is the main thing — the satisfaction of the soldiers coming to the dining facility.”
Jackson has a special recipe for ribs that he uses for Thursday meals in the DFAC. It recently was featured in the Joint Culinary Center for Excellence monthly magazine that is mailed to every dining facility in the Army. However, no one will hear him bragging about it.
“I don’t want to be the guy who is on the front page,” he said. “For almost 20 years, I have just come to work and tried to do my best. It is just the love and passion that I have for cooking that causes me to want to go above the norm.”
He acknowledges that military dining facilities haven’t always had the best reputation for quality food, but he said that the Raider DFAC is attempting to change that stereotype.
“We don’t have the reputation, but you come over to the Raiders, you get something that you can’t get anywhere else,” Jackson said. “There is no one providing this. Everything we make here is from scratch.”
Jackson said he lives by a fairly simple philosophy when it comes to cooking in the military, and he hopes to pass it on to all of the soldiers.
“My philosophy is that rice can be flavorful, beans can be seasoned and chicken can be good,” he said. “Most people aren’t used to Army food being like that, and that is what I get out of it — seeing people eat the food, and it melts in their mouth and they love it.”
Jackson hopes to retire from the military soon, but that doesn’t mean puts any less effort into his job.
“I want to be a part of increasing the success of a place, instead of just being there,” he said. “I don’t just come to work, I come TO work. I love what I do, and I love the people I am around. The last two years, we have had some great guys who have allowed me to do what we needed to do to make this DFAC better, and I thank all of them for that.”