Army chef spices up life as newest U.S. citizen
November 13, 2009
- Antigua and Barbuda native receives U.S. citizenship while serving in Iraq
- Soldier came to America, joined the U.S. Army to pursue dream of becoming a chef
CAMP VICTORY, BAGHDAD - Growing up with his grandmother, Spc. Andre Barrett knew the importance of love, respect and the power of a home-cooked meal. He longed for the day he could come to the United States and pursue his dream of becoming a skilled chef.
Barrett was born August 16, 1984, in the islands of Antigua and Barbuda. It was in Antigua and Barbuda that Barrett completed high school and realized that he wanted to be a chef.
"My grandmother was a great source of inspiration because she was mainly the one that took care of me and she was always cooking. As she got older, cooking became my responsibility," he said.
Feeling confident in his skills, Barrett went on to represent Antigua in a culinary art competition, called Taste of the Caribbean, in 2006.
"I competed with 13 other islands, being the youngest member of the team when I was 21," he said. "We did well. We placed second and got a silver medal."
Shortly after, Barrett and his wife, Shashawnah, decided to make the move to the United States. He and his wife began adjusting to the move.
When thinking of ways to better pursue a career as a chef, while still being able to provide for his family, Barrett weighed his options and decided to join the U.S. Army in March of 2008.
"The benefits drew me in, and I already knew that cooking came easy so there wasn't any question of what I would do in the Army," said Barrett, speaking about his choice to enlist as a food service specialist.
After completing basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., Barrett received job-specific training at Fort Lee, in Virginia, and was later assigned to his first duty station, Fort Hood, Texas.
Since Barrett deployed with Fort Hood's 1st Cavalry Division in January, Barrett became eligible to receive his U.S. citizenship, something he said he has always wanted.
"My wife has her citizenship, and I wanted it to be my turn. This is something I can do for myself and my family," he said.
After completing his application process; basic English and U.S. history tests; and personal interviews with a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agent, a process that can take over five years for people not serving in the U.S. armed forces, Barrett was informed that he would now be a U.S. citizen.
On Nov. 11, in the rotunda of Camp Victory's Al Faw Palace in Baghdad, Barrett got exactly what he wanted in a Veterans Day naturalization ceremony. Barrett was one of 157 Soldiers and Marines, representing 60 different countries, who were granted U.S. citizenship.
"There are so many words to describe this day," he said. "It's good to know I can assist my family members in getting their citizenship, but it also allows me to help other Soldiers who need theirs to do the same thing. I want to set an example for them."
Since his deployment, Barrett said he has been able to work on Soldierly skills, participate in a Thanksgiving culinary competition and make it back for rest and recuperation leave in time for the birth of his first child, a son named Azaire. Barrett will redeploy with 1st Cav. Div. in February 2010, and plans to attend the Army's Advanced Culinary School in April.