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MILITARY MATTERS: Mess Hall

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FORT BENNING, GA (WTVM) - Whatever you do, try to avoid the words ‘mess hall' when discussing the buildings at Fort Benning where food  is served. Marshall Fowler says that phrase is part of your father's Army.

"Dining facility now. The old mess hall is gone. We serve to a different excellence now."

Fowler oversees the dining facilities at Fort Benning, Ga., which are much more like cafeterias now. He says the way soldiers are fed today has changed dramatically.

"The biggest difference in the Army food service now is we treat soldiers like soldier-athletes, so we want to feed them that way." Fowler says more emphasis has been placed on what's being served, not how quickly it can be put on the line.

Soldiers, like Spec. Andrew Landis of the 198th Infantry Training Brigade, have taken notice. "I've heard the stories about mess halls and chow halls before and I kind of thought it was going to be a slop on a plate. But we've got a real good variety of healthy foods here that taste good."   

One big change is that fried food is no longer on the menu. Instead, healthier items are now offered which are color-coded. Green labels indicate high performance foods, like salads. Yellow labels point to items that should be enjoyed in moderation, and red is reserved for high-calorie foods, which as the label puts it, may hinder performance.

Drink choices are limited to water, Diet Coke, juice and various flavors of Powerade. 

Like most of the troops in basic training, Pvt. Isaiah King concentrates on being the best soldier possible. He says restoring the body is an important part of that process. "By the time we get here, we go through a lot of calories a day and we're really hungry."

Curbing that hunger is Marshall Fowler's job, and when you look at the numbers, he and his staff are getting the job done in a big way. 

"Believe it or not, last year on Fort Benning we served eleven-million meals, eleven million! And this year we plan on topping that somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-million meals."

It's a safe bet to say that all of them were considerably healthier than in the days of the mess hall.

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