TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Ask Senior Airman Meagan Rogers, 60th Force Support Squadron food service shift worker, what sets the Sierra Inn Dining Facility team apart from other DFAC teams and you’ll likely get a single answer.
“Top to bottom, we just bring more of ourselves to work,” said Rogers. “Services is no different from any other [Air Force Specialty Code]. Just as a pilot wouldn’t sleepwalk through their flight, we don’t sleepwalk through our shifts. We bring our A game to every second we’re here because that’s what the mission requires.”
Rogers joins the Sierra Inn DFAC team in competing for the John L. Hennessy Award at the Air Force-level Feb. 20-23 where they’ll compete against 12 other bases to win the ever-coveted Air Force-wide Award.
The Hennessy Award, awarded by the Hennessy Travelers Association, is given to “operations that exhibit sustained excellence in food service management, force readiness support, food quality, employee and customer relations, resource conservation, training and safety,” according to the association’s website.
Rogers’ supervisor, Master Sgt. Elizabeth Sandoval-Vega, 60th FSS food service training manager, thinks that while winning the award three years in a row has a tendency to encourage a “king of the hill” mentality, the DFAC team is aware enough of their own shortcomings to stay focused on their goal.
“There is always room for improvements,” said Sandoval-Vega. “Complacency becomes a huge problem when victory seems consistent. We try to reinforce that there are always ways for the DFAC to operate better, look better and be better. We always take all of the feedback from whatever periodical evaluations we come under and use that to make any changes that can improve the facility for everyone.”
While praise isn’t a motivation for the 60th FSS to persevere and excel in their respective workplaces, the Hennessy award represents an idea that resonates deeper than the trophy itself does.
“Winning the Hennessy trophy distinguishes us as the best food service operation,” said Sandoval-Vega. “What this means to the team as a whole is the fact that our collective efforts from the management team down to the Airman on the grill are recognized as truly the best. It means that we are doing everything to the best of our abilities and the best has distinguished us as the best.”
For Rogers, more so than recognition, the qualifying for the Hennessy Award competition is a privilege, something that represents the culmination of a year’s worth of successes, failures and more than anything else, hard work.
“The idea of the Hennessy Award is well-respected,” said Rogers. “It’s the benchmark of what it means to be successful in this industry. It’s definitely a source of motivation and empowerment—gives us a reason to stay determined and keep bettering ourselves.”
In the days preceding the competition, the DFAC team is calm. They’ve been here before and they understand what’s required to win. Whatever attitude they plan to bring to the competition is already written on their faces and has been since the last competition. The other bases in the competition will have to contend with a team whose focus and almost devout approach to their work is unrelenting. As it always has been, is and will be.
Despite the laser focus; despite whatever force, inalienable from its duty, possessing her team, Rogers still offers a single piece of advice to the other bases in the competition.