An hour before dawn one morning, a five-ton truck with its lights doused crept quietly up to the concertina razor-wire protecting the supply dump for this base of 3,500 people. A figure climbed down and snipped the wire. Minutes later he was loading boxes into the back of the truck. Smitty the Cook had struck again.
“I got up at 4 to check on breakfast, and I saw the supply guys hadn’t delivered the fruit. I gotta have fruit for my soldiers for breakfast. I got to,” insists George Smith, 38, a cheerfully direct staff sergeant who is called principled by some, pig-headed by others. Smith, from Cambridge, N.Y., came to Afghanistan prepared to feed 120 soldiers. Within weeks he was feeding thousands of GIs hot meals, twice a day. Smith’s soldiers get fruit that morning—pears, in syrup. Later, at the staff meeting, up jumps the supply sergeant major, hot and glaring, arms akimbo. “Staff sergeant, did you break into my supply area this morning?” The heads of the attending colonels and majors swing to Smith for an explanation. “Yup,” it comes. “Your guys didn’t deliver my fruit and I don’t have the luxury of waitin’ around. I got soldiers to feed.” The officers nod. Case dismissed.
One day Smith awakened at 4 a.m. to find a violent thunderstorm had blown down his tents into a tangled, muddy mess, tipped over cooking equipment and wrecked the serving areas. In an icy dawn, soldiers lined up for chow. Steaming hot waffles, blueberry compote, scrambled eggs, grits and coffee. Tables and benches set up for them to sit at. Unnoticed in the background, Smith lugging sodden boxes, tugging on a sagging guy line, laughing with his privates.
“I gotta feed ‘em, ya know?” says Smith. “These guys deserve it. I got
good guys working for me. I love this stuff. I wouldn’t trade this job