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Pope Airmen, civilians have new Airmen's Center dining option

  • Published
  • By Marc Barnes
  • 43d Air Mobility Operations Group
POPE ARMY AIRFIELD, N.C. – More than 2,000 Airmen from four Air Force major commands now have a new dining option here thanks to the efforts of several leaders in the 43d Air Mobility Operations Group and the Army and Air Force Exchange Service. 

Open for breakfast and lunch on weekdays, the new veteran-owned restaurant – Let Me Cater To You – held its grand opening in the Airmen’s Center here April 7. The restaurant operates similar to military dining facilities, offering service members and civilians convenient access to healthy dining options. 

The Air Force dining facility here was shuttered after the most recent Base Realignment and Closure round — which ended in September 2011 — led to a significant reduction in the number of Airmen assigned to Pope. After its closure, Airmen still here were left with the option to visit fast food restaurants nearby, or to travel further away to Army dining facilities on Fort Bragg. 

Recognizing the impact that had on work and training schedules for Airmen in units across Pope, the 43d AMOG command team asked Capt. Chaola Harris, the commander of the 43d Air Base Squadron Military Personnel Flight at the time, to begin looking at opportunities to bring an additional dining option here. 

Harris worked with Fort Bragg AAFES staff to bring the contracted dining option to the Airmen’s Center.

“We let AAFES know that we needed a healthy option that wasn’t fast food and researched local restaurants or caterers which could meet the need,” said Harris. “Then we asked (AAFES) to look at options and see if they could bring their business on base.

After several months of effort AAFES awarded the contract, and the new restaurant began serving customers in early March this year. 

Harris said there are many positive aspects to having the new dining option in the Airmen’s Center, which is surrounded by dorms and offices where Airmen live and work. Airman 1st Class Haley Bradshaw, a personnel journeyman in the 43d Air Base Squadron here, agrees with the captain. 

Bradshaw lives in the dorms and works nearby, and said the new dining option offers numerous benefits.

“As a dorm resident, it has granted me the opportunity to eat a well-portioned healthy, non-genetically modified meal, and to save financially on food costs,” said Bradshaw. “There were not a lot of options when it came to food choices.”

Previously, she ordered food through a company which shipped to her dorm room, but said that was too expensive. 

“That option can cost a lot of money over time, and with the new dining option here at Pope, I don’t have to worry about the financial burden,” Bradshaw explained. “(This new dining location) is allowing us as incoming Airmen to know we are not only valued but taken care of. Leadership has allowed an outstanding facility to become a part of Pope and it will enhance the lives of everyone here.”

One of the driving factors behind bringing a new restaurant to Pope was the need to offer an additional option to Airmen in the 352nd Battlefield Airmen Training Squadron here, an Air Education and Training Command unit which is part of the training pipeline for Air Force special operations combat controllers and weathermen.

According to Maj. Trent Joy, commander of the 352nd BA TS, the school has a very narrow window of time to get students fed and back to their training location for the day. Although they recently found a dining facility which supports the dietary needs of their students and supports their training schedule, he said this new dining option at Pope would be helpful to the school. 

“Having this solution at Pope Field gives us an option that is much closer, so we can get students fed and back at their desks, or back in the training environment they’re in that day within an hour window, which is really where we need to be to avoid extending their training day too far.”