Army KP Duty: What It is and How it Works

Before I enlisted in the United States Army, I was mentored and prepared for the hell I was about to face by my Father In Law.

John Rumley was one of the best cooks the Army had ever seen.

At the time of my enlisting, John was now a member of the National Guard unit based in Fremont, Nebraska and any time one of the other soldiers asked me about my personal background, they would smile and say, “Oh, you are Chef Rumley’s protege.”

You could give John 3 potatoes, 2 stalks of celery, a cucumber and some spices, and he would have a delicious meal in front of you in no time.

But where did that meat come from?

Where is Frisky?

May John Rest In Peace, as I am sure he is cooking great meals in Heaven.

One thing John prepared me for was the dreaded KP duty.

As an enlisted soldier, you should be prepared for it, especially if you were anything like I was; getting in slight trouble from time to time:

  • “Soldier, didn’t you shave this morning? KP duty for you.”
  • “How come those boots are not shined? You’ve got KP”
  • “Wipe that F’in grin off your face Boudonck, you are on KP duty.”

But you know what? John prepared me for it and it really wasn’t as bad as many others claimed.

In today’s post, I am going to explain what Army KP duty is and how it works.

What Army KP Duty Is

Let me start by telling you that KP stands for kitchen police.

No, you are not guarding the kitchen and wearing a badge.

Police means to restore order or clean, and that is what KP duty is.

Let’s face it… Soldiers need to eat and be it a mess hall at a fort or in the field, there needs to be personnel who restore order and clean up.

That duty is put on the junior enlisted personnel.

You may have seen old movies that showed enlisted soldiers peeling potatoes; well, that is not so much the case anymore.

Technology has made KP duty easier in many ways, but there are still dishes to wash, floors to mop, trash to take out, etc…

And today, Army KP is not nearly as bad as it was even in my days in the Army

The reason is because the Army has hired more and more civilian personnel to handle some of the kitchen duties.

But, when you first enlist in the United States Army, you still need to prepare yourself for KP duty.

The primary reason Army soldiers detest KP duty

I don’t believe it is the work itself that the young enlisted hate KP duty.

It is the hours that KP duty must be done.

The soldier must get out of his/her bunk long before the rooster crows, and clean up of the last meal happens when other soldiers are relaxing after a hard day.

Plus, KP duty is on top of regular duties.

How Army KP Duty Works

I mentioned earlier that in many Army installations, civilians handle many of the kitchen duties.

In some cases, an enlisted soldier may be given some KP duty, even when civilians are running the kitchen detail, for minor infractions that do not require an Article 15 or a non-judicial punishment hearing.

Most generally, in today’s Army, KP duty is used during basic training to prepare soldiers for Army life.

You will also find it used in many Army National Guard units because the funding for civilians is not there.

The way it works is junior enlisted soldiers are put on a rotating schedule.

Depending on the size of the unit, there could be several soldiers on KP duty at any given time.

The duties they will encounter may include:

  • Food prep with no cooking
  • Washing dishes, pots and pans
  • Cleaning floors
  • Wiping tables
  • Food serving
  • Take out trash
  • etc…

Just about anything the kitchen staff orders the KP soldier to do, they must do.

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Some advice given to me about KP duty

Even if KP duty is given as a form of punishment, it is best that you do not consider it punishment.

It can be a great learning experience.

One of the greatest ways to learn is to watch.

As a young man, cooking was not in my area of knowledge; sure I could manage to scramble some eggs, or whip up some boxed macaroni and cheese.

But my times serving on KP duty, especially in the field, helped me learn how to make a meal from items that many other people would never dream of.

I mean, we really have to give a huge thumbs up to Army cooks, because they can turn rotten sausage into steak.

Look at KP duty as service.

Without that job being done, the Army would not run on all cylinders.

It is as important as any other job because soldiers must eat.

KP duty teaches us how to be humble.

I also discovered that if you don’t whine and bitch; that if you do your KP duty as if you love it; you get treated quite well by those great Army cooks.

“Hey, taste this Boudonck,” or “Sit down and eat this piece of pie soldier,” were common occurrences when I did KP duty as if I loved it.

By the way, there is another great benefit… Serving food allows you to get to know the other soldiers in your unit.

The way they eat and act towards you can be used in your favor.

You see, there is this inner bug that let’s those soldiers know that you have some control over their food.

Now I am not saying to be “dirty,” but with those a-holes, that scoop of rice or potatoes could be just slightly smaller than the soldier in front of them.

Knowing you have some power over their chow will tame their ego slightly towards you.

Just do it with a smile and they will soon learn.

KP Duty Final Thoughts

So let’s hear your thoughts about the dreaded KP duty.

Did you hate it?

Do you have any other advice you would give soldiers who are facing their first round of KP duty?

Do you have any questions?

Just post any and all below.

Wit that, I just have to share the best Shit On A Shingle recipe ever devised from my Father In Law.

If you don’t have an idea what Shit On A Shingle is… You have missed out.

You need:

  • A loaf of bread
  • 2 pounds of ground beef
  • ½ cup flour
  • Beef bouillon – 1 cube
  • 1 ¼ cups powdered milk
  • 3 ½ cups of warmed water
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

Brown the ground beef and drain the fat.

Add the flour, salt, pepper and the bouillon; mix together and cook another 4-5 minutes until the flour is absorbed.

Mix the powdered milk with the water and then add that to the ground beef mixture along with the Worcestershire sauce.

Heat it until it simmers while you are toasting the bread.

Pour the mixture over slices of toast and enjoy.

Have a great day!

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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4 thoughts on “Army KP Duty: What It is and How it Works”

  1. Basic tng @ Ft. Dix, NJ all recruits got KP as rotation thru platoons. DROs were not part of KP, but pulled out @ chowtime. Assignments I remember: pots & pans, back sink, tray loader, outside man & grease pit. If we still had the draft system then many of these malcontents & draft-dodgers would be better people.

    1. I remember some of my experiences on KP duty. It was hard work. Definitely makes you appreciate what the cooks go through on a day to day basis. I agree with you that many people would be “better off” or at least have a different perspective if they served and had the experience of KP duty. It might not be a glamorous job, but it’s important and there is a lot to learn from it.

    1. Johndel Callora

      Haha. I had a good laugh with your grandpa’s meaning of KP, but at least all of them in the company are well fed and energized to do their duties because of the Kitchen Police. Thanks for dropping by Linda.

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