AN IPSWICH cook and his Tasmanian offsider are working overtime in the war-torn Middle East to ensure hundreds of Aussie and Afghan soldiers march with a satisfied stomach.
Private Jason Newmann, who until recently lived at Raceview and was based with the 9th Force Support Battalion at RAAF Base Amberley, is currently on his second tour of Afghanistan, where he is in charge of feeding up to 150 soldiers twice a day.
With Lance Corporal Otis Hodge by his side, Pte Newmann runs what is effectively a restaurant from the Patrol Base Sorkh Bid in northern Kandahar.
Hungry soldiers get a choice of salads and three or four mains for lunch, and a similar choice for dinner time on the base.
"We run it just like a restaurant," Pte Newman said.
"We like to ensure the soldiers keep a balanced diet with rice, pasta grills and even themed nights where we might do Mexican or Italian.
"A good meal gets them out of the monotony and provides a real morale boost.
"There is an old saying that the Army marches by its stomach and I think it is true."
With Afghan National Army soldiers also regularly refuelling their tired bodies on the base, Pte Newman has also picked up a few new recipes, along with some of the native tongue.
Because his understanding of the language is still basic, he couldn't recall what the dishes were called, but he said he'd been learning how to cook a few unique Afghan curry creations.
Although only 23 years old, Pte Newmann is married and keeps in constant contact with his wife in Townsville via Skype, emails and letters.
He said missing family was the hardest aspect of war, but surprise packages in the mail from loved ones provided relief from home sickness.
"You can try not to get homesick, but there are times when you are tired and exhausted and it can get to you," he said.
Depending on operational requirements, Pte Newmann could be back with his wife by the end of this year, with his six- month deployment due to end in December.
Pte Newmann would like to say hello to all his family and friends in Ipswich. He said he was missing you lots and he appreciated your messages of support.