Lance Corporal Matthew Williamson of the catering corp
Lance Corporal Matthew Williamson of the catering corp JACK EVANS

Meet the Aussie digger cooking for an army

LANCE Corporal Matthew Williamson's work day starts by crawling out of his swag covered by a camouflage tarp, straight into a hole he has dug in the hard clay in an undisclosed location, somewhere in the Shoalwater Bay training site.

He will repeat this every morning at precisely 6am for over a month.

The pits start off as shallow, body-length scrape just high enough to keep him below the surface while laying on his stomach.

The sleeping arrangements for ADF personnel
The sleeping arrangements for ADF personnel JACK EVANS

 

Lance Corporal Matthew Williamson assumes his defensive position
Lance Corporal Matthew Williamson assumes his defensive position JACK EVANS

Over a few days he slowly works away at digging a deeper trench, which is eventually reinforced by sand bags.

He mans his dug-out post and keeps guard until he is stood down via radio signal, and that is when he makes his way to the fulfil his primary role as a caterer to prepare meals for up to 600 others in the battalion.

The catering corps form part of a logistics and support hub called the Force Support Battalion (FSB) which is scattered in well-thought out strategic positions through the bush.

Tents blending into the bush environment
Tents blending into the bush environment JACK EVANS

Lance Corporal Williamson and other members in the catering corps are expected to man their respective trenches in the event of enemy contact and rotate through overnight watches with the rest of the logistics site.

The FSB also hosts a mechanic workshop, a truck depot, fuel reserves and a medical station.

Mechanic workshop at the Talisman Sabre
Mechanic workshop at the Talisman Sabre JACK EVANS

The size of the support hub is only made apparent until one moves through the site as tents and vehicles become visible.

Tents, vehicles and other makeshift infrastructure are all covered by leafy imitation sheets, and from a few hundred metres become invisible to the untrained eye.

Once stood down, the next step for Lance Corporal is to ensure his weapon has been cleaned and is placed in an easily accessible location with his pack, easily accessible if contact were to occur.

After a quick personal hygiene routine, the meal preparation begins.

The day is split in to two shifts, a preparation shift, and a cook shift.

Assortment of meals prepared for soldiers
Assortment of meals prepared for soldiers JACK EVANS

The preparation shift prepares meals for the next day and the cooking shift cooks the meals prepared the day before.

There is also a smaller stewarding team who are in charge of issuing the food out to those coming in to dine.

After ensuring those dining at the support facility have received their three daily meals, providing it's not his turn for overnight guard duty, Lance Corporal Williamson can retire to his bed at about 7:30pm before repeating it all again.

Major Torben Louwen-Skovdam
Major Torben Louwen-Skovdam JACK EVANS

His senior officer, Major Torben Louwen-Skovdam spoke of the importance of efficient meal delivery and nutrition in war.

"There has been a lot of work happening through Defence Science and Technology in the nutrition space and that is something (the catering corps) is really interested in,"

Stores of ingredients for the Catering Corp
Stores of ingredients for the Catering Corp JACK EVANS

"The corps were established by a medical corps officer during WWII who highlighted improving nutrition will result in the best soldiers.

He said all officers would begin human performance and nutrition management training in the coming years.

Catering Corp member preparing meals
Catering Corp member preparing meals JACK EVANS

Maj Louwen-Skovdam also believed the quality and quantity of meals given to soldiers was essential in boosting moral.

"There is a huge link between the human performance management through meals served, and increased physical and cognitive function."

One of the goals of this year's Talisman Sabre exercise was to find ways to efficiently coordinate the catering corps of participating nations with universal methods and procedures.

Lance Corporal Matthew Williamson transitions from fighter to caterer
Lance Corporal Matthew Williamson transitions from fighter to caterer JACK EVANS