FRANKFORT, Ky. (9/16/13) – More than 430 Soldiers of the Kentucky National Guard's 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade were treated to a picnic lunch made from Kentucky Proud foods and prepared by a local caterer and veteran Sunday morning following a three-day training exercise.
The Soldiers had just completed the second annual "Command Sergeant Major Challenge" at the 551-acre Hidden Valley Training Site near Clay City. Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Wilkins said the Kentucky Proud meal was a special treat for the troops.
"What a fantastic way to cap off a hard weekend of training," said Wilkins. "Most of the time, our Soldiers have to eat field rations when they're on an exercise, so this was an unexpected surprise for them. We really appreciate the generosity and hospitality the Kentucky Proud folks have shown our troops. I can't imagine a better way to end a drill weekend."
Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and other Kentucky Department of Agriculture personnel helped serve the meal.
"This is just a small token of our appreciation for everything our service men and women do for us every single day," Commissioner Comer said.
Jason Noto, owner and operator of Mia Nonni Mobile Food Truck and Catering of Lexington and Shade Tree Farms of Sadieville, prepared the Kentucky Proud meal on site in his 28-foot trailer that contains a full commercial kitchen. Noto spent nine years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He and his wife, Jessica, went into the food business full-time in March after he was laid off as a manager for Boeing. Noto is a member of Kentucky Proud and Homegrown by Heroes, a program that identifies foods produced by Kentucky military veterans.
The menu included:
• Fresh vegetable and beer cheese plate with vegetables from Growing Warriors of Berea and Country Boy Beer Cheese. Growing Warriors director Michael Lewis is an Army veteran and a member of Homegrown by Heroes.
• Pulled pork and pulled chicken barbecue sandwiches with barbecue sauce from Kentucky's Smokin' Grill of Danville and buns from Klosterman Baking Company of Lexington. The pork was produced by Napoleon Ridge Farm of Napoleon, and the chicken came from Marksbury Farm of Lancaster. The meats were processed by Brooks Meats of Walton.
• Homemade Italian sausage that Noto produced with products from Marksbury Farm and his own farm.
• Vegetable boil of potatoes, corn, and carrots boiled in Cajun spices. The boil was made with products from Growing Warriors; Capstone Produce Market of Campbellsburg, and Homegrown by Heroes member Townsend Sorghum Mill of Jeffersonville.
• Fried apples and peaches made with products from Capstone Produce Market, Townsend Sorghum Mill, and Shade Tree Farms.
• Bourbon bread pudding made with Maker's Mark bourbon and ingredients from Klosterman Baking Co., Townsend Sorghum Mill, and Shade Tree Farms.
In the Command Sergeant Major Challenge, the troops, outfitted in full combat gear, navigated from point to point across rugged terrain and daunting obstacles while conducting squad-size tactical exercises. The exercise was also a competition among the squads.
"The aviation community is normally accustomed to work with or on helicopters and airplanes during drill weekend," said Wilkins. "So this month's training was an opportunity to hone their basic soldier skills and take part in some friendly competition. There's some blood, sweat and tears, but we love it! This is why we join the National Guard."
Information provided by Ted Sloan
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