Photographer Albert Lutan and I spent much of the day out at one of the COPs in the area. (Combat Outpost - If you've never dealt with the military they have acronyms for everything. I'm an Army brat and most of the time I still have to ask what they mean.)
We were at Camp Clark, and I must say the Easter lunch spread was impressive! Members of the 4-25 who are stationed there say Camp Clark's DFAC (Dining Facility) is already way better than bases much larger, and on holidays the cook staff goes all out.
The main course was lobster or some kind of fancy fish wrap. There were more side dishes than I could count, and then there was the dessert table. Wow.
You can see from the picture how decked out it was.
We were originally going to feature the head chef at Camp Clark. He's been out there for eight years now and takes extra special care of the soldiers including putting on holiday meals like this. Well, because of PR red tape (I can't escape it even here) from the food contractor we couldn't talk to him.
So instead we focused on the cake maker. He doled a LOT of his own money to make the amazing dessert spread for today. He also didn't sleep for nearly three days working on it. He said he's already planning something bigger and better for 4th of July. Seriously, kudos. Imren Isnil is one of the many people I can't wait to introduce you to when our stories air in a couple of weeks.
On another note, you can quickly tell the difference between soldiers who are Alaskan and plan to stay in Alaska for a long time, and those who are simply Alaska based. When Albert and I get introduced to soldiers who've been bitten by the "Alaska bug" they light up when they find out we're from Channel 2 and want to talk all about the snow this winter, their favorite place to go fishing, etc.
I've heard a lot of soldiers say they plan to retire in Alaska, whether that means soon or having to move away for a few years and then move back. Also several have said they plan to do back-to-back tours of duty on Alaska for a total of six years. That's what my family did, and we're still here all these years later.
It sounds like they get a lot of military media outlets visiting them, but rarely local news. Our PAO (Public Affairs Officer) said we were the first TV crew of this deployment. I don't want to toot our own horn, but it was a big commitment by Channel 2 to send us here. It was not cheap at all, but the "hooah!" I got from a soldier after he asked if we were an AFN (Armed Forces Network) crew and I told him we were Channel 2 in Anchorage felt pretty good.
The most common thing people have said to me is "we wish you could stay longer!" I do too, so many stories and not enough time.
Talk to you soon,