JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
Meals Operating on Wheels, or MOW, began serving food to Basic Military Training trainees at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland March 30 to feed Airmen who are quarantined in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control social distancing guidelines put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This MOW is the brainchild of 502nd Force Support Squadron leadership,” said Master Sgt. Asim Siddiqui, career assistance advisor at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston. “The moment this operation was shaping up, all FSS subject matter experts huddled in a room and produced this awesome operation. The needs of the Airmen are what drove that concept, and it has worked to fulfill these needs.”
The MOW initiative was put together completely by FSS, who decided everything from who will be fed, where it will come from, and how the food will get to them. The operation is comprised entirely of volunteers and staff members who work at JBSA-Lackland.
Even though the CDC social distancing guidelines have changed his job description and he does most of his work from home, Siddiqui is happy to volunteer in-person safely.
“I’m a senior non-commissioned officer in the United States Air Force and we’re fighting this invisible enemy. I didn’t want to just sit on the sidelines,” he said. “I want to be a participant in whatever way I can. I wanted to help my fellow Airmen during these uncertain times, and providing food to my Airmen is my weapon of choice.”
MOW delivers breakfast, lunch, and dinner to the Airmen. Siddiqui coordinates every meal and he has a team of Airmen to help him deliver them.
The day starts at around 5 a.m. when they place the order for breakfast, giving the cooks the number of meals they need to provide. Siddiqui and his team pick the meals up at 6:45 a.m. and shuttle them from the dining facility to the various locations on base where trainees are staying by 7 a.m.
The 502nd Logistics Readiness Squadron provided three bread vans to deliver the meals, and the menu changes every day.
“We have delivered more than 10,000 meals,” Siddiqui said. “It can be fish, barbecue, whatever. It changes based on what is required for the caloric intake, and medical and religious preference. It’s got a mix of vegetables, like corn and salad, different milk to drink, sports drinks, chicken nuggets ... just all sorts of food.”
At the height of operations, there were 26 Airmen and 10 civilian contractors feeding the trainees, but the mission is flexible and has operated with only 10 workers as well. And even though it has been a sacrifice and has taken additional time, Siddiqui is happy to serve.
“I didn’t want to just quarantine myself. I wanted to go out there and help people,” he said. “It’s been a really unique and harmonious experience.”