All training squadrons have a dining facility (sometimes called the DFAC or the chow hall) located on the lower level of their building. In some cases, if a neighboring squadron is close, two squadrons may share a facility. All trainees receive three meals a day, also known as “chow time.” These are either served at the DFAC, or as a Meal Ready-to-Eat during field training. In all actuality, the food in the DFAC is actually very good however; the reality is, especially for your first couple of weeks, you won’t have much time to actually taste what you are eating. Meal time may last 30 minutes or less, depending on the order the flight arrives at the chow hall. Trainees are mandated a minimum of 20 minutes to consume each meal. With that said, most trainees can receive much less time to actually eat because much of the time at the DFAC can be spent waiting in lines.
As with every other thing at BMT, there are specific rules that are followed during chow time to get your food, find your table, eat your food, empty your trays and exit the facility. When I was at BMT there were four trainees per table. You were not allowed to actually sit down and begin eating until all four trainees arrived at the table. While you were waiting for the other trainees to arrive at your table, you stood at a modified position of attention, holding your tray out in front of you. Once the last trainee arrived he announced, “Ready…Sit”. At that time you all sat down and began to eat. You learned to eat very quickly. Once you were done, you waited until the last person at the table was done. You then all stood at the same time and walked to the area to drop your trays off. I am not sure if these same practices are in place today, but I am sure there are some type of rules in place for when and how to eat your meal. Chow time the first couple of weeks was pretty stressful. You would often have just enough time to sit down, shovel a few forks full of food in your mouth, drink a glass of water and then get up and leave. It does get better the longer you are at BMT.
As we mentioned in the Jobs At BMT article, the Chow Runner has a pretty tough job. He/She is responsible for announcing the flight is ready to enter the DFAC. While most trainees do their best to avoid “the Snake Pit”, the Chow Runner must report to the Snake Pit each time to announce that their flight is ready to enter the DFAC. This of course opens the door for the Chow Runner to face the wrath of the MTI’s at the Snake Pit.
Ok, I probably got your attention. You are probably saying, what is the Snake Pit? Well quite simply, it is the table where all the MTI’s sit during chow. They sit waiting for their pray, the trainees, to walk past as they sit down to eat and walk out to leave. At anytime MTI’s will pounce on an unsuspecting trainee and turn an already chaotic experience (eating a meal in a few minutes) into an even more gut wrenching, digestion-blocking meal. The purpose of the Snake Pit is for MTI’s to catch trainees off guard and test them on their knowledge of rank structure, military bearing, customs, and courtesies.
Here are three simple tips for successfully navigating the Snake Pit.
1. Do your best to avoid getting called to the Snake Pit to begin with. Although chances are high that at some point every trainee will get sent to the Snake Pit, there are ways to avoid being a target. When trainees go through the chow line MTI’s are looking for any trainees out of step, looking around, or going too slow. Remember to focus on getting your food and don’t chat with the civilians serving it. Before reaching your table you will walk directly toward the Snake Pit. At this point don’t show any fear. MTI’s are like hungry beasts that can smell fear and will jump at the weakest looking member of the pack. As you walk past the Snake Pit look confident and focused on getting from point A to point B. However don’t look directly at the MTI’s. This is a sure way to get called over and grilled.
2. Know your stuff. If you are ever called over, make sure you know the information in accordance with the week of training you are in. If you are supposed to know the rank structure by now, know it backwards and forwards. Otherwise they will drill you until you make a mistake. And one mistake outweighs a thousand correct answers.
3. Don’t carry anything with or on you that is unauthorized. You will know exactly what you are and are not supposed to have with you. If you are pulled from the chow line and into the Snake Pit, chances are you will have your portfolio (the bag you will carry everywhere) dumped out and ransacked. If anything is missing you’re in trouble. Worse yet, if there is something not authorized in there, you’re in even more trouble. Check and double-check your portfolio every night before bed. You never know when the MTI’s in the Snake Pit will strike out and bite.