AF gears up for 50th Hennessy Award

ACC turns spotlight to Langley, Mountain Home dining facilities


By Tech. Sgt. Russell Wicke

Air Combat Command Public Affairs 


12/08/2005 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, VA (ACCNS) – The Air Combat Command dining facilities at Langley and Mountain Home Air Force Bases stood above the rest by demonstrating to evaluators they’re ready to compete in the Air Force’s 50th Anniversary of the Hennessy Awards.


Established in 1956, The Hennessy Award Program is an annual competition for bragging rights of the best food service program in the Air Force; essentially, the Super Bowl for eateries in blue.


“The Hennessy Award is the highest honor a dining facility can attain,” said Senior Master Sergeant. Deborah Lohenitz, ACC Food Service Superintendent and evaluator for the command. The award represents applause from the best in culinary arts,
which include representatives
from the National Restaurant Association,
Society for Food Service Management,

International Food Service Executives
Association and Air Force officers.


According to Air Force Services officials,
the program promotes excellence in
customer service and meal quality.
Additionally, it’s designed to inspire high morale, motivation and a professional image through pride and competition. The awards are based on the entire scope of an installation’s food service program exhibiting excellence in management, force readiness support, food quality and more.


Not just any facility demonstrating these virtues can compete at the Air Force level; they must be selected as the best at the major-command level. “It’s the bases that choose to compete and shoot above the standards that are nominated from ACC,” said Sergeant Lohenitz.


According to Senior Master Sergeant Joseph Hayes, ACC Food Service Manager, bases are evaluated in two categories: multiple and single. The multiple-facility category includes bases with two or more dining facilities serving breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday through Friday. The single facility category includes bases with only one facility serving three meals a day on weekdays.


Langley’s food-service program was nominated as the single facility and Mountain Home was nominated as the multiple. The last time Langley won the Air Force Hennessy Award was 1992, when it was a part of Tactical Air Command. Mountain Home has yet to claim rights to a Hennessy trophy. A victory this year is more than an appealing feat for those competing, said Sergeant Hayes, because it’s the 50th Anniversary for the Hennessy Awards.


“We have a great staff with a lot of young folks full of energy,” said Tony Skwirut, Food Service Officer, 1st Services Squadron, Langley.


It’s those young Airmen at Langley who will be holding the torch when Air Force evaluators come through in early 2006.


“Our junior NCOs and Airmen put a lot of effort into our success at the command level,” said Master Sgt. Jo Ann Haviland, Dining Facility Manager 1st Services. “They will be key in winning at the Air Force level because most of our senior NCOs will be deployed. We have a good set [of NCOs].”


Those at Mountain Home said they believe they have a significant chance to take the gold in the multiple category. “The customers approached the ACC evaluators and expressed their satisfaction with our facilities,” said Allen Maddox, 366th Service Squadron food service officer at Mountain Home. “If Mountain Home is selected as the Air Force Hennessy Trophy winner, it will confirm that we are the best of the best.”


The ACC evaluators noted both bases exceeded standards, but each boasted different strengths.


According to ACC Services officials, Mountain Home was selected based on their customer service, meal quality and supportive leadership. The facility demonstrated substantial improvement from last year’s operations.


Langley’s food service facilities made an impression in different areas. “They listen to what the customers ask for and they give it to them,” Sergeant Hayes said. “They’re very in tune with what their customers want.”


Moreover, the customer feedback has resulted in a massive variety of food. The Air Force requires all dining facilities to operate from a 14-day menu, standard across the board. According to Master Sgt. Henry Brown, 1st SVS dining facility assistant manager, the Langley facilities go far beyond the 14-day menu.


He said their food variety exceeds standards by offering special foods on certain days and extra food displays, like deli bars, every day. In addition, they host a food show twice a year.


Despite their success at the MAJCOM level, food specialists at Langley offer a modest response to their proven skill.


“We networked with other NCOs who had been part of the Hennessy award in the past,” said Sergeant Haviland.  “We communicated and learned from others.”


On the whole, the facilities have two things in common: quality customer care and supportive leadership.


“Our main focus is to get the Airmen involved,” said Mr. Skwirut.  “That’s our single greatest goal, (along with providing nutritional meals.) Dorm residences don’t get a full subsistence allowance, so we want to make available to them [the best quality food possible].”


Mountain Home food experts are singing the same tune. “Mainly, it’s all about the customers,” said Staff Sgt. Wesley Tuson, 366th SVS store room manager. “You can have a great facility, good food and disciplined operations, but if you don’t get out there and let the customer know you care it will be a dead facility.”


Both bases were able to exceed the needs of the customer because of the financial support of their leadership. At Langley, the facilities welcomed more than $60,000 support from the 1st Fighter Wing. Mountain Home gathered a substantial sum as well.


“We enjoyed a total of about $100,000 in a 13-month window to replace aging food preparation equipment,” said Mr. Maddox.  “I brag about the commitment we’ve received from all levels of leadership from the wing commander on down.”


Both Mr. Maddox and Mr. Skwirut and those who work for them said their efforts are primarily for the customers -- winning the Hennessy award would only be a bonus.


“Win or lose, we are still America’s first team,” added Sergeant Haviland.


The Air Force evaluating team will start traveling to evaluate all nine nominees Jan. 29, said Sergeant Hayes. The winners should be announced by mid-April.