By Debbie Aragon, AFIMSC Public Affairs / Published August 07, 2020
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JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas — The Air Force continues modernizing dining facilities and menu options across the enterprise with the newly reopened U.S. Space Force’s The Beachcombers at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
Beachcombers, which caters to Air Education and Training Command students and cadre, closed at the beginning of the year for a $650,000 renovation and upgrade and, although slightly delayed because of the Coronavirus pandemic, held a grand opening Aug. 5.
The upgrade delivers a new serving line and dining area, a greatly expanded meal service and on-trend menu choices.
The Air Force Food 2.0 style of service, managed by the Air Force Services Center, gives customers at Vandenberg and 24 other installations “finish in front” service stations, technology advancements and large, robust self-serve breakfast yogurt, salad bar and “grab & go” meal and snack options.
“The finish in front stations mean no more queuing up in one line,” said Sakine Lucero, Vandenberg AFB food service officer. “Customers get in, get what they want and are able to get out via combined point of sale stations.”
In addition to the physical upgrades to the Vandenberg facility, Lucero said she’s excited about delivering three main things to AETC customers at the training complex.
“First, and most important, is a full food service capability for all meals within the 381st Training Group complex,” Lucero said.
Prior to the new Beachcombers, students had a very limited service for one meal a day and then spent time going to the base’s main dining facility for other meals. This often caused delays in the student academic day.
“Like at Vandenberg’s main dining facility, The Breakers, there’s not only a large selection of updated menus and style of service but also putting the food where it’s needed to meet the mission of AETC student feeding,” said Jim Krueger, AFSVC chief of Air Force Food and Beverage Strategic Initiatives. “We’re giving them convenience and time back in their already busy academic day.”
“The 30th Force Support Squadron is pleased with the joint efforts of Air Force Services Center and AETC leadership to bring this modernized facility to our students,” Lucero said.
Beachcombers will also offer customers features like a hydration station where students can fill reusable water bottles with free, filtered ambient and chilled water, eliminating plastic waste. On trend with industry, there’s even a social media presence so students can easily see what’s available in advance, to include seasonal quarterly menus that are “contemporary and current to culinary trends.”
Following the Beachcombers opening, the students were “extremely pleased with their newly renovated DFAC due to its convenience and the large variety of menu options available to them to include entrée/global, deli, pizza and Simply-To-go stations along with a salad bar full of healthy choices,” said Cedric McElroy, AFSVC Food 2.0 program manager.
Vandenberg food facilities, as well as other Food 2.0 installations, can expect to feature new menus later this month, as well as quarterly updates.
“The Air Force Services Center works with each installation to modernize our delivery of food to our customers,” said Col. Marc Adair, director of operations at the AFSVC. “Today’s Air Force is feeding a demanding force – a culture of more ‘healthier’ consumers, seeking expanded access to food, when and where they desire.”
Offering plant-based menu items is part of that culture.
Plant-based food items like Beyond Burger patties, cauliflower pizza, “beef” crumbles and meatless meatballs were well received at several test bases. These items are now being added to all non-Food 2.0 Air Force dining facilities and nonappropriated fund facilities like bowling centers, golf courses and clubs.
“While we continue to expand and modernize standard menu options, traditional comfort fare is still available,” Krueger added, for those who love nothing more than a good hamburger.
With 25 installations currently operating under Food 2.0, AFSVC expects to add more installations in fiscal year 2021. Three are already in renovation with two more in the design phase.
The main DFAC, Breakers, is open to anyone who has access to the installation – to include retirees and contractors – while Beachcombers is only open to AETC students and cadre.