VICENZA, Italy – Although he said he never thought about it that way, Mark Knapp has spent most of his life around food. He’s currently the food service program manager at Logistics Readiness Center Italy. And when he’s not at his job at LRC Italy working food service requirements, he can most often be found at home in his garden tending to his apple and cherry trees, berries and vegetables.
The 405th Army Field Support Brigade’s LRC Italy is responsible for providing a multitude of installation services and support activities to U.S. Army Garrison Italy’s area of responsibility. Knapp, who has 35 years of Army food service expertise, is responsible for supporting two warrior restaurants in the USAG Italy footprint – one at Del Din and one at Caserma Ederle.
Knapp knows the importance of his employment. The 58-year-old culinary arts expert said he does what he does for Soldiers, and that’s been the case his entire career. A retired senior noncommissioned officer with 22 years of active duty service, Knapp spends much of his time – even today – mentoring and training less experienced dining facility attendants, food service specialists and Soldiers.
“Just yesterday, a private first class and a specialist were preparing – of all things – a meatloaf, and when I passed by them I looked at it,” Knapp said. “People who aren’t experienced with preparing meatloaf don’t realize that it needs to be treated a certain way before it’s cooked so I stopped and took the time to let them know how to make it even better.”
Knapp treats the food service specialists, Soldiers and his staff of about 50 dining facility attendants like he does his own family. As a father of five sons himself, Knapp understands that people are the Army’s greatest asset.
“They’re always asking me this and that, and I enjoy helping them however I can. I enjoy offering my experience to help,” Knapp said. “I enjoy giving back.”
“The food service business is very challenging,” said Knapp, who’s been LRC Italy’s food service program manager twice – 2011 to 2016 and 2019 to present. “You’re only as good as your last meal.”
It’s a lot of work, very fast paced and often stressful, said Knapp, but he has a solution for this, too. When he’s not at work he can most often be found at his small farm in San Pietro in Gu, Italy, tending to his passion – his garden. The lifelong food service specialist and food program manager has apple and cherry orchards, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries as well as a small vegetable garden.
Knapp has been married to his wife, Francesca, for 31 years. She volunteers during her free time helping low-income families in need while Knapp pursues his pride and passion for horticulture, which he enjoys very much, he said.
“It’s peaceful, and it’s quiet. I can go out there and relax and just get away,” said Knapp, adding that he also enjoys sharing his yield with friends and neighbors.
Back at work, Knapp – who grew up about an hour from Cleveland, Ohio – can sum up his responsibilities and the responsibilities of his staff with one single number – the number three.
“As food service personnel – when you’re doing your job or running a facility you always have three requirements every day, and that’s to serve three nutritious and delicious meals,” Knapp said.
LRC Italy is one of seven LRCs under the command and control of the 405th AFSB. LRCs execute installation logistics support and services to include supply, maintenance, transportation and food service management as well as clothing issue facility operations, hazardous material management, personal property and household goods, passenger travel, and non-tactical vehicle and garrison equipment management. When it comes to providing day-to-day installation services, LRC Italy directs, manages and coordinates a variety of operations and activities in support of USAG Italy.
LRC Italy reports to the 405th AFSB, which is assigned to U.S. Army Sustainment Command and under the operational control of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, U.S. Army Europe and Africa. The brigade is headquartered in Kaiserslautern, Germany, and provides materiel enterprise support to U.S. Forces throughout Europe and Africa – providing theater sustainment logistics; synchronizing acquisition, logistics and technology; and leveraging U.S. Army Materiel Command’s materiel enterprise to support joint forces. For more information on the 405th AFSB, visit the official website and the official Facebook site.