Fort Bragg Soldiers teach students how to cook
Sgt. 1st Class Makeesha Cain, center, 20th Engineer Brigade, shows eighth grade students at Max Abbott Middle School how to properly plate the meals they prepared. Cain and fellow cooks from Fort Bragg taught the class how to prepare a meal as part of a community outreach activity Jan. 29.

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - The eighth grade students in Ebony McAllister's Exploring Life Skills classes at Max Abbott Middle School in Fayetteville got the opportunity to interact with four Soldiers stationed at Fort Bragg Jan. 29.
The Soldiers were invited as part of the course's
curriculum to help students pursue interests in practical application or general career exploration. In the Experiencing Life Skills class, students learn the essential skills they will need in the home and their future workplace. The lessons they learn center around activities and lessons designed to help them become better consumers, citizens and workers.
The four Soldiers - Master Sgt. Charlotte Boone, XVIII Airborne Corps, G-4, Sgt. 1st Class Makeesha Cain, 20th Engineer Brigade, Sgt. William Redding, Battery B, 1st Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery, and Spc. Melissa Vasquez, 20th Eng. Bde. - who helped teach the students were all Army cooks. They started each class asking the students what they want to be when they enter the workforce. The answers ranged from the medical field to being a musician, chef, sports star or Soldier.
"When you get older, you need to figure out what you want to do in life. This is what we chose to be a chef and a Soldier," said Boone, from XVIII Airborne Corps G-4.
Most of the classes got a chance to learn what Soldiers eat while they are in the field or deployed. Boone explained that Army cooks provide the troops with a hot meal for breakfast and dinner when possible, but lunch is a meal-ready-to-eat. She gave the students an MRE and had them guess what the meal contained. After they each voiced what they thought was in the bag, they got to open it and sample the contents.
The cinnamon red hots, chili, cheese and M&Ms were a hit. Only a few seemed to like the Mexican rice.
Instead of learning how to heat an MRE, McAllister's advanced class participated in a hands-on cooking lesson led by the Soldiers. They learned how to prepare a baked fish dinner with a side of broccoli and potatoes from start to finish.
Redding explained the importance of cleaning up as you go and how to blanche, skin and seed a tomato before the students split into four groups to begin cooking their meals.
The clock was running. In 45 minutes the students had to prepare, cook, eat and clean up after their meals. This showed them not only the difficulties the Army faces by cooking for so many in a short period of time, but the difficulties their working parents face having to feed the Family after a full day at work.
The class practiced teamwork as they accomplished the various tasks to finish the meal. They whipped the potatoes, washed dishes, seasoned the fish and even learned how to plate the food.
"This is the first time I've done something like this and it was so much fun," said Vasquez. "I'm excited and hope I get the chance to come back and teach them how to make banana cake."
The students seemed to enjoy the experience as much as the Soldiers. Some even voluntarily stayed after class to help clean up and do dishes.
"I loved getting to cook today," said Kendra McMillan, one of the students who stayed after the bell rang. "I hope they come back again."
McAllister, a candidate for the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards certification, said she was glad the Soldiers came to give her classes a glimpse of what their fellow community members do.
"This has been a great opportunity for the students to see what is going on in the community around them," she said. "I hope the Soldiers are able to come back and share with us again."

Page last updated Tue March 3rd, 2009 at 12:01