Bandit Inn Airmen, civilians work together to accomplish the mission

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Alessandra N. Hurley
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Airmen who cleaned dishes, took out garbage and bussed tables as part of kitchen patrol duty at basic military training may have an idea of how stressful working in a dining facility kitchen can be.

Thanks to BH Services, a sub-contractor of the Black Hills Workshop, and a federal contract between the Air Force and disabled civilians in the community, Ellsworth's Airmen who specialize in food services at the Bandit Inn dining facility have the help they need to get the job done.

BH Service's civilian employees clean all of the equipment, as well as wash dishes, pots and pans, and bus tables.

"We have more time to focus on food preparation," said Senior Airman Keith Smith, 28th Force Support Squadron shift leader and first cook. "The civilian employees relieve the pressure on us by ensuring everything is clean and ready when we need it."

Airman Smith attributes his achievement of the monthly Sharpest Knife in the Kitchen award to working with civilian employees who help facilitate what Airmen do.

Airman Catherine Tibbetts, 28th FSS food service apprentice, is new to the Air Force and says working with civilian employees helps her to put service before self.

"I have been here at the Bandit Inn for approximately three weeks," Airman Tibbetts said. "Working with the civilians is definitely helpful to supporting the mission because it allows us to focus on cooking and serving food to Bandit Inn customers."

Rich Hern, BH Services assistant contract manager, who has been working at the Bandit Inn since 1982, said the contract with the Black Hills Workshop was temporarily enacted Oct. 1, 1990 and became permanent due to the success of the program and the level of dedication put in by the employees.

"We have a lot of success stories," said Mr. Hern. "Larry Lancaster, one of our civilian employees, has been working here for more than ten years and he is one of the best workers we've got."

The employees receive training on their first day of employment and also learn to take on extra tasks, when necessary.

"We train our employees on the job," said Mr. Hern. "During deployments, civilian employees also take on the tasks of cooking and serving with two or three Airmen supervising them."

Bandit Inn food service attendant, Lucia Lewton, agrees the Bandit Inn can get busy, but is a positive work environment due to everyone working together.

"I like working here because we do our part and the Airmen do theirs, so we make a pretty good team," said Mrs. Lewton.

Although civilian employees help the Air Force accomplish its mission, the Air Force also helps civilians, like the Bandit Inn employees, find steady work.

"The military gives them a chance to go out into society, live their own lives and pay their bills," said Mr. Hern. "We're a family here. We work alongside the Airmen and help each other."

The Airmen and civilian contractors of the Bandit Inn both agree the program is beneficial to accomplishing Ellsworth's mission.

"Our civilian employees are very capable individuals," said Mr. Hern. "All they need is a chance first to get their foot in the door. The military gives them that chance, whereas most places won't even do that for them."