Reef dining facility HEATs up for lunch

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Joe McFadden
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
While Airman 1st Class Nathalyn Forget, 1st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, had eaten at the Hurlburt Field Reef Dining Facility before, she'd been told her lunch on Sept. 30 would be special.

It wasn't because she was at the only buffet-style dining facility in the Air Force or even that it was chicken cordon bleu day.

Rather, it was because that day Airman Forget and her fellow Airmen got to have lunch with the players, coaches and staff of an NBA team, the Miami HEAT, as part of the team's introduction to Air Commando culture and life in today's Air Force.

Airman Forget heard the team chose to conduct their 2010 Training Camp at Hurlburt Field because of the base's special operations environment and focus on commitment and discipline. And she knew the Aderholt Fitness Center, just like the Air Commandos on the base at large, had an opportunity to showcase their skills and capabilities to some of the NBA's most talented players.

But the reality of their visit didn't settle in until she saw Dwyane Wade, a HEAT guard, switch from an empty table to hers.

"I was like, 'Oh no, he's not sitting here?!'" she said. "But he actually moved, and we talked about what this week has been like."

Just as Airmen got to interact with the basketball team through conversing with them about their jobs, other Hurlburt Field Airmen in the dining facility served the HEAT while showing them what they do best.

An avid basketball fan, Senior Airman Javan King, 1st Special Operations Force Support Squadron food service specialist, received a lot of questions and requests from his friends throughout the Air Force and across the country before the team arrived. Yet he put all star-struck notions aside as he prepared the players' stir fry orders just like he does for special operations Airmen each day at work.

"So far, it's been a lot of requests including every single vegetable and meat that we have," Airman King said while adding broccoli and peppers to a rice medley. "But it's really great that they would take time out of their schedule to do this here, of all the places in the country they could have gone."

The Reef staff met the challenge of accommodating the HEAT players' strict diet regimen as well as they handle feeding special operations Airmen three times a day, seven days a week.  1st SOFSS food service Airmen also met with Michael Jacobs, the HEAT's nutritionist, at the Soundside Club to learn cooking tips and see firsthand the similarities between preparing meals for an NBA team and Airmen.

"The staff's been phenomenal," Mr. Jacobs said. "Everyone's been very nice and really helpful, and we're having fun, too."

With such hearty appetites and a demanding training schedule, the players filled up their plates with fruits, vegetables and different entrées. LeBron James, a HEAT guard, finished his meal and then made his way to get a slice of carrot cake for dessert.

"I'm not done yet!" Mr. James said reminding others "King James" wasn't quite through with the Reef.

Throughout the lunch, Airmen spoke with players while coverage of the training camp appeared on the Reef's televisions. But rather than talk about their screen time, millionaire players like Chris Bosh, a HEAT guard, spoke with Airmen about their lives on base and the vital role they play in the Air Force.  

"It's pretty amazing just to know what's going on and see what our troops are going through," Mr. Bosh said. "At the end of the day, you guys protect our country and that's a lot more important than what we do."

As he spoke with Airman Forget, Mr. Wade pointed out how being a brand new Airman is similar to being a rookie in basketball. The 2006 NBA Finals' Most Valuable Player and eight-season HEAT veteran gave ice cream orders to Mickell Gladness, rookie HEAT center, for him and his table. He also reminded her how they wouldn't always be rookies, too.

"We respect every Airman, because we wouldn't be able to do anything that we're doing without your service to our country," Mr. Wade said.

As the HEAT players left the Reef for their next stop of their training camp, HEAT players expressed their appreciation to the Reef Airmen and staff. 

"The food was good," Mr. Bosh said. "I even filled out my survey, too."

"You all have got great people and great food here, too," Mr. Wade said.

As for Airman Forget, she described the event as one she won't soon forget.

"I've only been here for less than a month, and I never thought I'd be having lunch with Dwyane Wade," she said. "This was awesome."