KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
Most people have a safe haven they go to when they need some time to relax or unwind. For some, it’s a library, their room or the gym.
Here at Keesler, the three dining facilities strive to make mealtimes a safe haven where Airmen can come, have a hot meal and enjoy time with their friends.
“I have a son in college,” said Bill Cox, 81st Force Support Squadron quality control manager. “I want to treat our Airmen and customers that come through the door how I would like my son to be treated at his college cafeteria.”
There are three dining facilities on Keesler: Azalea Dining Facility, Live Oak Dining Facility and the Magnolia Dining Facility. These facilities are responsible for serving 4,200 meals every day.
“We run a cafe menu system, so we have the 28 day menu cycle and recipes we have to follow,” said Roy Jackson, 81st FSS food service officer. “We serve just about every type of meat and vegetable, and there’s a variety of things on the menu. We have three to four main entrees in every meal period, meat items, two to three starches, three vegetables, three different soups. We also have the snack line that serves fast food items, a sandwich line that serves subway type items and we have ice cream bars in every facility.”
Cox said he constantly comes out and talks with Airmen to receive feedback on how the food is and how they can improve the menu. Based on that feedback, the dining facilities are planning to include pizza as a weekly special on the menu.
The contract employs 180 people and many of them have dedicated over 15 years of their lives serving the Airmen.
“A lot of the people that are behind the scenes working in the dining hall, they’ve committed many years of their life,” said Jackson. “Some of them have been working here for 30 years and they’ve been exceptional.”
Cox attributed their dedicated service to making the dining facilities a family-type atmosphere.
“We’re kind of like a tight-knit family,” said Cox. “We work together well, and unity and teamwork is very important.”
Susan James, 81st FSS food service attendant, said over the years she worked at the dining facilities she has made many friendships and memories, which included getting coined by the previous 81st Mission Support Group commander, Col. Danny Davis.
“For some of these Airmen, it’s their first time away from home,” said James. “They just come in and you can tell they need a kind word or a hug or something to just get them through the day. All the Airmen are so young and there’s a few that come in that just need a hug or encouraging words because they’re worried about their test. The majority of the employees try to help as much as they can if they have any questions or problems.”
Many people handle stress in different ways but Cox wants Airmen to have a place they can wind down from everyday life.
“What I want the Airmen to know is that they’re on the daily grind out there, but when they come here I want them to relax, get a good hot meal and enjoy the company for a little while,” said Cox.