Nightingale Dining Facility workers persevere through renovations

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Chad Gorecki)

Airman Taijha Turner, 375th Force Support Squadron cook, cleans the grill inside the portable trailer at the Nightingale Dining Facility, Sept. 6, 2017, at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. The Nightingale Dining Facility has continued its operations while also renovating the building, which are focused on improving the safety of the facility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Chad Gorecki)

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Since March of 2017, the Nightingale Dining Facility at Scott Air Force Base has continued its operations while also renovating the building.

The facility is in its first of two sets of renovations. The initial set concentrates on structural renovation that includes fire suppression, plumbing, ceilings, lighting, and heating and cooling systems. These renovations will bring a massive capabilities increase, said Robert Jones, 375th Force Support Squadron food service director.

Jones said the base is getting a much safer dining facility, one that should be seen as the new standard across the Air Force.

The second set of renovations, funded by the Air Force Services Agency, will focus on the serving line. Renovations will not start until the first set is complete, which is expected to be at the end of October.

Upgrades will bring the dining facility a new counter station called “The Global,” which will serve as a Mongolian barbeque or a personal burrito station throughout the week.

The upgrades will also feature ovens used to make personal pizzas in less than two minutes. Items also will be added to both the salad bar and grill, and plans for a smoothie bar are in the works as well.

With all of the challenges the renovations have brought, the Nightingale Dining Facility workers have still come together to meet Airmen’s needs, said Jones.

Employees have adjusted to the circumstances by working in two parts of the facility to offer a 21-item menu: The kitchen inside of the grab and go and a kitchen set up in a portable trailer.

“They work in two different areas and they work with equipment that is not near the equipment they normally use,” said Jones. “It has been challenging, to say the least.”

In the end, Jones hopes this gives military chefs a new skillset for when they are deployed downrange with minimal equipment, and he has been impressed with the way his team has continued to complete the mission.

Jones is excited that the dorm Airmen, who have had to exercise patience throughout the construction, will finally benefit from the upgrades.

“I’d like to thank the customers,” said Jones. “I know they have dealt with a lot of frustration, too, because things have been changing constantly, but 99 percent of the time we get smiles and thanks back and we appreciate it.”

Additional improvements for Airmen in the dormitory include the ushering of “Food 2.0,” a program formally known as the Food Transformation Initiative. This is an AFSO 21 project that started eight years ago because the Air Force was losing dining facilities due to the lack of Airmen interest, which became cost prohibitive to the Air Force.

The highly anticipated Food 2.0 will bring Scott’s Airmen many more opportunities to suit their dining needs. In addition to increased offerings at the dining facility, Airmen can eat at other FSS establishments on base.

These include the Scott Club, bowling center, Student Union Café and Cardinal Creek Golf Course.

Food 2.0 will also make the dining facility open to all service members of Scott. The facility currently serves around 400 customers per day but will change significantly once opened to the base population, said Jones.

“Integrating Food 2.0 allows us to control costs better,” said Jones. “By partnering with an industry expert and combining their expertise with our man power, we will work together to produce an awesome product.”