Michigan National Guard in food fight with national command

Michigan National Guard in food fight with national command
Published: Mar. 4, 2021 at 3:50 PM CST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Family of Michigan National Guardsmen deployed to protect the nation’s capital say their loved ones can’t stomach the food.

Pictures Gray Television obtained from a guardsman’s wife appear to show undercooked meat, rotten fruit, moldy bread, and ‘metal shavings’ in the meals that have been provided in D.C. A video reveals what looks like a small worm moving in one dish.

“That is ridiculous and disgusting,” the wife said, “it’s been a constant on-going issue.”

That guardsman’s wife agreed to tell her husband’s story so long as we concealed her identity. Gray Television’s D.C. Bureau spoke with another family – unwilling to be recorded – who corroborated her claims.

The families said the Michigan guardsmen no longer trust the food they’re served. Those who can afford to dine on their own dollar do; many can’t.

The guardsman’s wife said she’s aghast and angry at the lack of quality meals. “Knowing that your loved one is not being taken care of… I want them to be treated better than that,” she said, “as an American and as a wife.”

While the Michigan National Guard’s commanders express deep concern, federal leadership of the National Guard denies any systemic issue. A spokesperson couldn’t verify reports of meals containing worms and metal. He said audits found only one in 10,000 meals are undercooked.

“Believe me, I lose sleep when I hear that there was a mistake,” Phil Sardelis, owner of a catering company at the center of the controversy. He called it an honor to serve the National Guard.

His employees have prepared more than one million meals for National Guard members protecting the Capitol since January 6th.

Sardelis said the images shared with us are horrifying, but rare and the result of human error. He blames metal shavings that ended up in meals on now discarded scouring pads. He denies worms could ever make it into the meals prepped by his kitchens.

Sardelis added that if the U.S. National Guard found problems with just two meals in a delivery, they can return the whole batch. “That’s never happened,” he said.

The guard families we spoke with and Michigan lawmakers from both sides of the aisle said they want a new caterer.

“I trust our soldiers,” said Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), “we cannot allow this to continue.”

“People can say ‘it was fixed’,” said Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Mich.) who first raised concerns about meals a couple of weeks ago, “but if the proof isn’t in the edible pudding, then you didn’t fix the problem.”

When asked about changing caterers, a U.S. National Guard spokesperson said: “we conduct routine assessments of food quality to determine if anything needs to change.”

Sardelis’ company remains the caterer at this writing. His kitchen have been inspected by National Guard officials since issues were first brought to their attention.

Michigan’s 1,000 guard troops are scheduled to return home after their deployment ends March 12th.

About 5,200 National Guard members are currently deployed in D.C., down from the 26,000 who helped ensure a peaceful inauguration for President Joe Biden on Jan. 20th. Capital Police are asking to extend the guard’s presence by two months.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.) made it clear in a press conference earlier this week that she did not expect to extend the Michigan National Guard’s stay.

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