“Long Knife” food service specialist goes the extra mile to build morale
July 12, 2011
CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE MAREZ, Iraq " Before leaving China, Spc. Jun Zhao promised his mother he would go to America and make something of himself.
Zhao, currently assigned to Troop D, 1st Squadron, 9th Squadron, 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, enlisted in the military four years ago as food service specialist.
“My job is to take care of Soldiers by preparing their food,” said Zhao, a native of Xiang Hai, China. “I’m different from other cooks. I take whatever criticism I get and apply it to improve (my cooking skills).”
Deployed for the second time, Zhao affects Troopers assigned to Troop B, 1st Sqdn., 9th Cav. Regt., holding true to his promise by going above and beyond to make the best meals possible, utilizing skills from his previous job as an executive chef at a large restaurant.
Zhao also attended culinary arts school following a three-year enlistment in the Chinese Army and continued to work at various restaurants to perfect his cooking skills.
“His culinary skills are unmatched,” said Sgt. 1st Class Bronson Jacoby, the senior food management noncommissioned officer in charge, with to Troop D, 1st Squd., 9th Cav. Reg.
“(His cooking) improves Soldier’s morale greatly,” added Jacoby, a native of Seoul, Korea.
When Zhao prepares a meal for his fellow Soldiers, he uses his culinary creativity and expertise to give Soldiers something to look forward to each day, said Jacoby.
“He is one of the best food specialists in the Army,” said Staff Sgt. Stephen Zaucha, a Philadelphia-native and food operations specialist with Troop D. “He uses his knowledge to change an ordinary meal and make it better.”
When Zhao works out of a containerized kitchen, a unit with lesser capabilities than a full kitchen, he ensures Soldiers receive full satisfaction from their meal.
“Whether in a (regular) kitchen or in a containerized kitchen, Zhao puts out the best he possibly can,” said Zaucha. “With him, it’s about personal pride, taking care of the Soldiers.”
Zhao not only inspires the Soldiers he works with by his cooking abilities, he also motivates his fellow troopers in their basic soldiering skills.
“He maxes out his PT (physical training) test and always hits at least 35 targets at every range,” said Jacoby. “He helps Soldiers who lag behind in PT. He operates as a noncommissioned officer.”
Zhao is working towards getting his citizenship and has plans to bring his mother to the U.S.