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Photo Information

Marines enjoy a meal with cake served at the 12th Marines Mess Hall March 5 after being nominated for the Major General William Pendleton Thomas Hill Award at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan. The inspection for the award was conducted by a three member team. The team included Jack L. Kleckner, Lt. Col. Richard D. Kohler and Master Gunnery Sgt. Brian M. Velloza. Steele, a native of Mt. Gilead, North Carolina is a mess manager with Headquarters Battery, 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force. Kleckner, a native of Richfield, Minnesota, is an evaluator for the National Restaurant Association. Kohler, a native of Marion, Ohio, is the director of food services with Marine Corps Installations Command, Headquarters Marine Corps. Velloza, a native of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, is the food services occupational field specialist with Marine Corps Installations Command, Headquarters Marine Corps.

Photo by Cpl. Tyler Giguere

12th Marines Mess Hall competes for best mess hall in the Marine Corps

9 Mar 2015 | Cpl. Tyler Giguere 3rd Marine Division

Mess hall Marines brace for the oncoming meal-time rush of ravenous Marines. The day’s events go smoothly, thanks to the newest changes the mess hall manager initiated. Everyone’s lives have become less stressful and the food service has become much more efficient.

The 12th Marines Mess Hall has received reward after reward under the guidance of its newest mess hall manager, Master Sgt. Derrek L. Steele. Now they are nominated for the best chow hall in the Marine Corps, the Major General William Pendleton Thomas Hill Award.

“This is the second time I have been in a position to be a part of winning this award, it took a very long while and a whole lot of work to do it,” said Staff Sgt. Edward Fairley, the chief cook for Headquarters Battery, 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “But this is the first time I understand why I put in all that effort, not just to win but working hard to create a better eating environment where people are actually happy with the service I have provided.”

Steele, a mess manager with HQ Battery, 12th Marines, has set forth several new changes to the facility and a strict set of high standards to place his mess hall at the top. Some of his improvements include adding fun days to reduce stress for his Marines, requiring the Unit Deployment Program Marines to bring their own food service specialists for exercises, increased space to work in the galley, allowed working alongside the local workers more often, and he has improved the look of the building with renovations.

“He truly looks out for this mess hall,” said Lance Cpl. Debbie E. VillalbaSaavedra, a food service specialist with HQ Battery, 12th Marines. “He literally never takes a day off; he comes right into the galley and works alongside us teaching us his ways and tricks.”

Steele prefers his environment to be stress free, family orientated and motivating for everyone to increase their performance. Having this in mind he has designed his improvements to center around his own Marines welfare.

“Everything starts in the rear, meaning my Marines working are the backbone of this facility,” said Steele, a native of Mt. Gilead, North Carolina. “Once those Marines are taken care of everything falls into place and then the rest comes easy.”

Stress is a major issue for Marines in the food service industry because of the early working hours and hectic work schedule.

“Master Sergeant cares about everyone here, he notices us when we get stressed out or have an issue that needs to be dealt with,” said Cpl. Selman C. Orenda-Erin, a food service specialist with HQ Battery, 12th Marines. “He tries not to overwork us and that gives us more motivation to complete what we need to do.”

Steele’s character is noticed not only by his subordinates, but by his superiors as well.

“The mess hall is a direct reflection of his (Steele’s) attitude. When I first met him he was very clear (concerning) his expectations and confident about them,” said Sgt. Maj. William J. Grigsby, the Sergeant Major for 12th Marines. He is a future Master Gunnery Sgt. because he is very outgoing, professional and personable to all ranks from a general to a private.”

The 12th Marines mess hall, under Steele’s guidance, has won multiple awards including Marine Corps Installations Pacific mess hall of the year. Due to this award winning record the Marines installed a new logo into the chow hall.

“The logo is a culmination point for all the hard work we have prepared for winning the W.P.T. award,” said Steele. “Its significance is for the Marines to have pride in what they do, something to be proud of everyday when they walk in and look upon it. It also helps set us apart from our competitors.”