Shaping the future of Navy food service!

An interview with Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Wodele, SC, USN, Director of Navy Food Service, Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) by Government Food Service magazine

Originally published in the April 2019 Issue of Government Food Service, ©2019 Executive Business Media. Reprinted with permission.

Government Food Service: Tell us about yourself and how you came to be director of the Navy food service program. Discuss how your first year is going and your goals as director of program.

Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Wodele: I assumed the position as director of Navy Food Service in July of 2018. Recently leaving the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) as the principal assistant for services and logistics, I thought that the Navy Food Service director assignment would be a great fit for me, and a good opportunity to learn more about Navy Food Service. I quickly learned there is a lot going on in the Navy Food Service program that is working with an innovative food service industry, and a DoD food service apparatus that is incredibility complicated, layered and large in scope.

Additionally, we are facing challenges related to manning, subsistence procurement, galley equipment, shipping/receiving and inventory management software, and ship connectivity, just to name a few.

My three primary goals for 2019 are to 1.  Increase awareness of and implementation of the Go For Green (G4G) program; 2. Greatly accelerate automation and standardization with operations — a specific milestone that is immediate is to test pilot the Battle Menu and Push Logistics concept with a Carrier Strike Group; 3. Refine and align our training with the Center for Service Support and our Navy Food Management Teams. 

Government Food Service: In support of your number one goal, the Navy is rolling out G4G 2.0. What is involved in implementing G4G 2.0? How is that progressing?

Wodele: G4G 2.0 has been fully implemented in the Navy since January 2017 per a SECNAV directive. The implementation was a smooth process, with collaboration among the TYCOMs, Navy Food Management Teams, NAVSUP and our dedicated culinary specialists.

Prior to January 2017, G4G training was held for all afloat Type Commanders (TYCOM), CNIC ashore regional food service directors and Navy Food Management Teams, who in turn trained waterfront personnel. Ongoing G4G training for galley personnel is available online through the MyNAVSUP website, https://my.navsup.navy.mil. There is also a G4G training video on YouTube.

Initial supplies and routine replacements of marketing material, including posters, table toppers and food label cards, were provided to all commands. This material is also available via the MyNAVSUP website.

All food items offered in Navy galleys are color-coded and sodium-coded with food-label cards. Navy menus are required to comply with G4G menu planning standards and are reviewed by the NAVSUP registered dietitian prior to implementation.

To further promote G4G, the Navy developed video spots directed to our galley patrons. For example, one spot explains the “choice architecture” concept where the serving line is arranged to place green-coded items first, followed by yellow and red. The spots currently air on American Forces Network and Direct to Sailor TV. Additional video spots are being filmed at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., and will air spring 2019.

Government Food Service: Navy Food Service followed up on modernization ideas from the Tactical Advances for the Next Generation (TANG) with funding from the Office of Naval Research that initiated a series of investigation phases. Phase II was to begin in January of 2018 followed by phase III.  Update us on how this is progressing and any improvements that may be resulting. 

Wodele: Since last year’s issue (March 2018), we are happy to announce that we have moved forward with our Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) projects. The three initiatives moving forward are the Culinary Specialist Food Service Support Platform (FSSP), Food Service Integrated Bar Code and Inventory Management System and the Human Performance Self-Service Kiosk.  The Culinary Specialists (CS) FSSP initiative is well on its way, with the goal of developing a mobile platform capable of delivering access to food service management documentation and hands-on training in order to support delivery of effective and efficient food preparation services by the CSs. NAVSUP is looking for a technology solution that will interact with the Food Service Management System (FSM) to better connect personnel and best practices with intuitive capabilities to change our labor intensive workflow that currently exists.

Through the Food Service Integrated Bar Code and Inventory Management System initiative, NAVSUP’s intent is to find a quality laser scanner within a tablet or other electronic device that will read and store data from bar codes on unit pack labels, bins, or documents for use at ashore and afloat galleys.  This system will be faster, more accurate and more efficient than the manual system for performing inventory and logistics functions.

The Human Performance Self-Service Kiosk has great potential for the Navy. This initiative focuses on our sailors to ensure they have the same identifying factors for health, welfare and fitness that Olympians and professional athletes currently have access to today. An interactive touchscreen displays human performance data analytics supporting warfighter readiness from a holistic view, including nutrition, exercise, hydration, sleep and overall wellness.

Ultimately, the tool will link to the Navy Standard Core Menu items for nutritional analysis. With Phase II almost complete, the Navy Food Service Team will be gearing up to provide the needed support to move these initiatives toward completion.

Government Food Service: NAVSUP and Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) were acquiring a new mobile restaurant vehicle, or galley, for NAS Lemoore that would increase healthy food options and bring them closer to sailor’s workplaces. Can you update us on this, and are there plans for additional mobile restaurants?

Wodele: Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) and (CNIC) continue to move forward with the acquisition of new mobile feeding units to increase the availability of healthy food options in close proximity to the sailors’ workplace. On March 23, 2018, NAS Lemoore, Calif., received a new mobile feeding unit to support Rations in Kind sailors working at local squadron hangars.  This mobile unit provides quality meals, to include sandwiches and wraps, to sailors, while saving valuable work hours spent transiting to and from the enlisted dining facility. CSs performed operational and maintenance testing through April 2018 to ensure familiarization with equipment and master the flow of operations prior to serving the first meal and to assist with future builds.  The mobile galley will also provide a platform for CSs to practice and hone their skills on Navy standard equipment.

The NAS Lemoore project has been completed, and the additional Mobile Feeding Vehicle food truck funds have been obligated; and construction will take place within the next few months, with a planned delivery in early 2019.

Other locations like Pearl Harbor have also taken an interest in investing in a mobile feeding unit to support the Naval Submarine Support Command.

Government Food Service: The Navy was to begin testing Navy Food Service Analysis Tool software in late fiscal 2018. Did this go as scheduled, and what was learned? Is implementation the next step?

Wodele: The rollout of this tool has been on hold as we continue to work through the Authority To Operate (ATO) process for approval to test on board an afloat command. 

Government Food Service: Navy culinary specialists have many training and professional development opportunities throughout the year; please highlight some of these and explain the benefits.

Wodele: We value training and the professional development of our CSs. NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Centers, along with the NFMTs, continue to provide relevant, quality training in all areas of food service.

Annual training opportunities for our culinary specialists include:

  • Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training event held at Fort Lee, Va.
  • Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training event held at Wiltshire, United Kingdom.
  • Army vs. Navy Cook-off at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.
  • Yokosuka Chopped, a cooking competition sponsored by Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka Galley and Morale, Welfare & Recreation (MWR), which is aligned with Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka’s Captain’s Cup event.
  • Culinary Championship in Great Lakes, Ill.
  • Numerous Fleet Chopped and Iron Chef Competitions aboard Navy ships and submarines, which provide additional opportunities for hands-on training.
  • The Navy has developed 52 food service lesson plans covering topics ranging from nutrition to food service equipment and general mess operations.

Government Food Service: What are plans for the Navy Captain Edward F. Ney Memorial Awards in 2019? When will evaluations be done and when are winners going to be announced? 

Wodele: In October 2018, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet and CNIC recommended 18 finalists to NAVSUP.  During October through December, Ney evaluators traveled around the world to identify the best of the best for 2019. In the February – March timeframe, the winner of the Capt. Edward F. Ney Memorial Award will be announced by the Secretary of the Navy in an ALNAV message. Personnel from winning galleys will participate in an award ceremony in May 2019. Trophy bowls will be presented to the winning commands and culinary training will be provided during the Ney event.

We added a new “Overseas” category for the shore commands. This change will be effective for the 2020 evaluations, wherein there will be three categories: West Coast, East Coast and Overseas.

Government Food Service: Ney winners participate in a three-day training program by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation as part of the awards presentation and later attend the Forum for Culinary Excellence at the Culinary Institute of America in California. Tell us about the benefits and why these training opportunities are important.

Wodele: Last year, 40 sailors from various commands participated in these training opportunities. There were also participants from the other services who were recognized for their respective culinary awards. It was only fitting that the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) incorporated the joint culinary award winners as part of the overall training program. Over three days, the NRAEF tested the services’ ability to work with one another as a team. Each team spent two days at Kendall College in Chicago learning about G4G, dining concept development, and the presentation of a business plan to a panel of industry professionals for critique.

Culinary winners also received advanced training from three of the Top Chef Instructors at the Culinary Institute of America School at Greystone. The training consisted of basic knife-handling skills, basic knife cuts, nutritional menu drafting and taste-testing techniques. Participants also learned about flavors of the world, olive oils, salts and cooking for the seasons.

Government Food Service: Is there anything else about the Navy Food Service program that you’d like to add?

Wodele: Here are some recent items of interest the food service team is working: provision handling contract. To reduce the use of working parties on board ships, our provision handling contract is being updated to address the provision on-load receipt, delay and performance reports.  Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness (FIAR). We are working to identify and correct gaps in our subsistence-in-kind financial processes to make Navy Food Service audit ready.  We are collaborating with Defense Logistics Agency and our sister services to develop the Joint Services Buyer’s Guide to ensure the DoD’s subsistence quality and nutritional requirements are met.

With the Navy’s more than 8,500 CSs working in over 300 locations in the U.S. and overseas, and in more than 280 general messes, we always have our work cut out for us. Providing constant communication and support of our CSs daily involves continuing support from our stakeholders to include Type Commanders, DLA, BUPERS, the Army Natick Soldier Systems Center and the Center for Service Support.