As Patriot surface-to-air missile fuel burnt bright against the blue sky of Shoalwater Bay, cooking fuel in the Camp Growl kitchen burnt under a delicious pot of food fit for a soldier.

The soldiers of the 1st Platoon, 1st Catering Company, have been hard at work providing meals for hundreds of troops conducting live-fire activities during Exercise Talisman Sabre (TS21). 

Some are living from ration packs in the field, while others are lucky enough to eat up to three square meals at Camp Growl – the hub for troops operating in the area.

In a show of support, the 1st Catering Company team were joined by soldiers from the US National Guard who, like the other nations participating in TS21, are benefiting from opportunities to work with their Australian counterparts. 

Chief among the learning objectives: key terminology such as “hotbox” (a pre-packaged hot meal served in takeaway boxes), and most importantly, the nuances of “Yeah, nah. Nah, yeah”.

Despite the minor language barriers, the kitchen’s chef supervisor, Australian Army Sergeant Andrew Colbourne, said the US National Guard soldiers fitted in well with their Australian colleagues.

“Working with the US was great – we shared some stories and talked about the differences and similarities of our work, but mostly it was just getting to know each other,” Sergeant Colbourne said.

The combined team of 12 soldiers feed up to 600 people three times a day. Sergeant Colbourne organised his staff to ensure meals were always available in the busy environment.

“We broke the team in to two shifts – one team preps the three meals and then has some down time while the others cook,” he said. 

“The prep team will also support [the cook team] by doing dishes and helping to box up meals.”

With many hungry men and women working in busy environments, a tasty hot meal means an instant morale boost for the appreciative diners.

“That’s probably the most rewarding part,” Sergeant Colbourne said.

“The team enjoy the positive feedback and making people happy while they’re out field. 

“They know people are doing it hard and that’s why our team does the job.”

Sergeant Colbourne is no stranger to high tempo – he and Private Zaniel Noriel recently returned from deployment on Operation Resolute in WA, and had only a few days to prepare before joining their team in Queensland.

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Exercise Talisman Sabre 2021