What Does DFAC Mean in the Military?
“DFAC” is a military term used in the Army and Air Force that translates to “dining facility.” The DFAC is basically the cafeteria, where service members who live in barracks can go to get their daily meals. The DFAC will serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midnight meals. Some are open 24 hours a day.
While the cafeteria is officially known as the DFAC in both the Army and Air Force, soldiers will often still refer to it as the “chow hall.” There’s different names for it in other branches, too. Here’s the breakdown:
Air Force: DFAC / dining facility
Army: DFAC, or chow hall
Marine Corps: Chow hall
Navy: Galley, or mess hall
Coast Guard: Galley, or mess hall
In the Navy and Coast Guard, the kitchen is called the galley, and the cafeteria is generally referred to as the mess hall. On ships or submarines, the DFAC is called the “mess deck” instead.
Additionally, every service branch has cooks who make the food in the DFAC. In the Army, the soldiers assigned to help cooks are called KP, or kitchen patrol. In the Navy, they are known as “cranks.” The point is: military lingo can be confusing, even for some service members.
Your Guide to the DFAC
If you are enlisted and reside in barracks, the military will give you your meals for free. In the Air Force, for example, it’s called being on a Meal Card (though they don’t give out physical cards anymore).
The DFAC will provide you with four meals a day. Breakfast can be anything from a fruit cup to a full spread, and other meals are similar. Most DFACs have salad bars available, as well as take-out boxes. The military is also trending toward serving healthier meals, which may deter service members who prefer cheap fast food nearby.
While KP (kitchen patrol) is very common to see in media, it is mostly a thing of the past. It used to be a job given to service members so that everyone had to do their fair share, but now it is only used in basic training and some other training courses. The DFAC on most installations is run by contracted operators.
DoD civilians are now allowed to dine at the DFAC, but must pay for the meals; weekday breakfast is $3.45, weekday lunch is $5.55, and weekday dinner is $7.65. Weekend, holiday and training brunches are $6.25.
Other Food Allowances
Service members who don’t live in dormitories, as well as officers, will generally not eat at the DFAC. They are given BAS, or Basic Allowance for Subsistence, which is a monetary allowance for food. It is strictly an allowance — not pay — and officers are usually given less BAS than enlisted personnel.
Enlisted members who receive BAS may still eat at the DFAC, but they have to pay for their meals, and the number of meals they are allowed is restricted. Officers are only allowed to eat at the DFAC for specific purposes, such as a commander checking the quality of food.
Deployed personnel will usually eat at the DFAC on their installation, but are also given a BAS.
A widespread thing in military media is MREs, or meals-ready-to-eat. These are meals sealed in foil packaging that can be heated or eaten cold. They contain an entree, side dish, crackers and cheese spread, a dessert, and some other snack items. Their original purpose was for deployed personnel who needed food rations in combat zones, but now they have become quite popular and can be purchased at camping stores.