They help defend the nation, but some Alaska Army National Guard troops show they can handle more than just weapons and military vehicles.

Culinary arts specialist soldiers assigned to E Company, 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment are competing in this year's Philip A. Connelly Program food service competition for Excellence in Army Food Service in a field environment.

Due to restructuring, the culinary arts section residing within the 1-207th Aviation Regiment will be absorbed into other support companies, making this its last chance to win the title for their current unit, a press release from Alaska National Guard stated.

(Dave Leval/KTVA)

"How does the unit operate in a harsh situation like they have right now with snow on the ground and low temperatures," said competition judge Jeffrey Kingman. "Often, you'll find soldiers doing this in a combat situation, so that will be some of the assessment attributes."

The Alaska National Guard's eight-person culinary team won the 2018 Pacific Northwest regional competition in the National Guard category. The win qualified them to compete at the national level in the Army-wide competition.

The team will compete against the other National Guard regional winners from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Minnesota. The menu includes chicken parmesan, calico corn, spring salad, wheat rolls, chili, and pineapple upside-down cake.

"I think they're doing great,' said another judge, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Mike Langille. "I mean, they're working well as a team, they're on task, they're on point. I'm excited to see how everything turns out."

(Dave Leval/KTVA)

Judges travel to each competing state to evaluate teams based on a points system, the release stated. It accounts for recipe adherence, sanitation, food safety, proper cooking techniques, field layout, culinary knowledge, and hospitality in a field environment.

Alaska's team will perform all required culinary duties using a containerized kitchen, which is said to reflect the realistic conditions of preparing meals and feeding troops in the field.

"It improves morale," Capt. Christina McCann said. "So, everybody's out there, doing their cold weather training exercises, they're working hard, long hours during the day and so, to be able to have that warm meal, it's a really great opportunity for everybody to come together."

The winner will be announced in May in Chicago.

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