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The Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 3561st Quartermaster Platoon shortly after its activation in September 2022. The consolidated culinary specialist unit is an Army effort to most effectively meet the troop-feeding mission. Wisconsin National Guard photo

The Wisconsin Army National Guard is fielding a platoon of trained culinary specialists ready to meet the organization’s dining needs at armories, dining facilities, in the field or on state active duty.

The Tomah, Wisconsin-based 3561st Quartermaster Platoon was activated late last year to meet changing requirements in the Army’s culinary specialist military occupational specialty (MOS).

According to Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Van Auken, platoon readiness noncommissioned officer, the Army is consolidating its culinary specialists into platoons and companies as part of a continuing effort to improve effectiveness.

“This concept provides a modular, scalable field feeding capability for home station operations and deployments,” Van Auken said.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kyle Edwards, the Wisconsin Army National Guard food program manager, said the Army has been working on the quartermaster company and quartermaster platoon force design update for years. The active duty component implemented the change first. Now the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve are implementing the changes.

“This is a unique new structure, and each state has been able to shape how they’ll station the new and reorganized elements,” Edwards explained. “The Wisconsin Army National Guard bought into this change early on, and has a solid plan on how to integrate this new unit into updated meal support processes.”

The 3561st Quartermaster Platoon — the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s first dedicated field feeding platoon — falls under the 732nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion of the 64th Troop Command. The 64th Troop Command is the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s most diverse brigade, containing units that don’t necessarily support a unified mission in the way subordinate units in the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team or the 57th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade would.

The platoon is authorized to have 76 enlisted members and a commanding officer, but Van Auken said the unit is approximately at half-strength right now.

“Plenty of room to grow, but we have quite a talented group of 92-Golfs” — 92G is the Army MOS nomenclature for culinary specialist — “assembled in Tomah.”

The 3561st Quartermaster Platoon is described as an “echelons above brigade” unit, which means it “can, and will, support any element within the Wisconsin Army National Guard as needed,” Edwards said. “Meal support is not tied to the command structure the platoon falls under.”

“The 3561st Quartermaster Platoon is entirely modular and scalable, meaning we can tailor the troops to task for each mission,” Van Auken explained. “The platoon as a whole can be broken down into five operational field feeding teams of 15 Soldiers and a headquarters element. Each of these field feeding teams can be further subdivided, depending on the size of the support request.”

For example, if the feeding mission only requires five culinary specialists, the 3561st Quartermaster Platoon can send a partial increment of a team. For larger missions, the platoon can merge teams.

“Once fully staffed and operational, the unit can tailor the support request to the location and size of the customer,” Van Auken said. “Where there are people to feed in the Wisconsin Army National Guard, the 3561s can potentially be there to support the mission — and multiple missions at once.”

1st Lt. Katelyn Pecha, the 3561st Quartermaster Platoon’s inaugural commander, said she was confident her unit will provide expert support whenever called upon.

“I am incredibly proud of how this unit has come together after only two months,” Pecha said. “I am impressed by the skills and leadership of our cooks, from the most junior to the most senior Soldiers. They are passionate about what they do and take pride in their work.”

Van Auken said he was humbled to be part of what he called a historic transformation of the food service career field.

“Our unit could change everything in a positive way,” Van Auken said. “We can build something special here.”

Pecha said the Soldiers of her platoon are happy to be in a unit focused on their MOS, and have taken ownership of their responsibility for the platoon’s success.

“I couldn’t ask for a more talented and dedicated group of Soldiers to take on something as challenging as standing up a new unit,” Pecha said. “I am proud to be their commander.”

“Once fully manned, this unit will have the capability to provide quality Army prepared meals for years to come,” Edwards said.