By Maria Rice McClure, Fort Campbell CourierAugust 24, 2015
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- Twelve Soldiers from across Fort Campbell's dining facilities took part in a two-week apprenticeship to learn skills that will have a lasting impact on their careers and the troops whom they serve every day.
To remain effective, the Army relies on its food service specialists to provide sustenance for its Soldiers. Every new to the Army Soldier learns the basics of their chosen military occupational specialty during advanced individual training. Those opting for the 92G MOS learn the basics of food preparation -- nothing fancy, just the basics.
Recognizing the need for continued learning within the food service field, many Army installations, including Fort Campbell, offer additional training in the culinary arts to hone the skills of their 92Gs.
"This program adds skill enhancement to their MOS," said Sgt. Maj. Delarick Williams, division food service sergeant major. "And they become the subject matter experts in their organization."
This apprenticeship is offered quarterly, and is part of a larger 92G credentialing training program through Austin Peay State University in which some 300 Fort Campbell Soldiers are enrolled, Williams said. The self-paced credentialing program leads to Culinarian certification with the American Culinary Federation and offers Soldiers the opportunity to convert those learned skills into college credits and Army promotion points.
The apprentices -- under the tutelage of Chef Wendall Hensley, APSU program manager for culinary arts program and retired Rakkasan -- prepared a luncheon for their supervisors, as well as Williams and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Ruth Caraway, division food advisor Aug. 18.
Caraway expressed the importance of culinary programs such as this for the Soldiers who participate, as well as the installation.
"This is a building block for [the Soldiers]," she said. "This builds upon their skills and serves as a platform to transition to compete for the culinary team."
The team of apprentices will prepare and serve another luncheon Aug. 21 to their commanders, which will be the finale of the two-week course.
Private 1st Class Ayanna Reyes assigned to Forward Support Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, would like to someday open a bakery.
"My mom is the cook and my grandmother is the baker, so I'm in between," Reyes said.
But for now, after just shy of two years in the Army, she is excited about the prospects of being a food service specialist and a Soldier. Reyes will be applying for the Army's Flight Steward Program. Graduates of this program serve as flight stewards on the Army's executive Gulf Stream Jet providing support to the Army Chief of Staff, Secretary of the Army, as well as other dignitaries.
"I'm ready to go to the next level. I'm so ready, I'm very excited," Reyes said with a smile and a glint of excitement in her eyes. "Maybe I will be able to cook for the president someday."
Private First Class Jesus Hernandez assigned 5th Special Forces Group has only been in the Army for 13 months and says he loves it.
Hernandez has always been interested in cooking, although his mother never let him into her kitchen. Becoming a food service specialist has given him the opportunity to turn his fascination into a career, and the apprenticeship has provided Hernandez with skills that he did not learn in AIT.
"I have learned how to make stuff from scratch," he said. "It's a little bit harder, but I believe it tastes better made from scratch. It has more importance to you when you have made it from scratch."
During the course he learned about mirepoix -- which are roughly cut vegetables that usually include a mixture of onions, celery and carrots -- that is used as the base of flavor for many sauces.
"It makes tomato sauce taste really good," Hernandez said, who hope to take his newly mastered skills back to his dining facility. "If they let me."
Specialist Kedrick Barlow assigned to 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, marked two years in the Army, Wednesday. Through the apprenticeship, Barlow says he has learned many useful cooking techniques, including how to make marinade.
"But it's secret, I can't tell you the ingredients," he said.
His supervisor, Staff Sgt. Robert Lively, 21st Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd BCT, stopped by Tuesday to check on his Soldiers.
"I have three in this class," Lively said. "I work with all of them, they are all really good Soldiers."
"This is a great program," he added. "It actually gives them the time to sharpen their skills. It makes them proficient in their MOS, making them better leaders."
Chef Hensley was a food service specialist in the Army, and although he teaches culinary classes for APSU-Fort Campbell, he volunteers his time to share his knowledge with the Soldiers in the 92G credentialing training program.
"I do this for the love of the Army," he said. "This is a field that could one day disappear from the Army."
Specialist Sweta Thapa assigned to 101st Airborne Division Artillery Brigade, and Pfc. Dominique Halton assigned to 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, went through basic training and AIT together.
"Now we are together at the same post," Thapa said, as they both laughed. "We will have our two year mark in October."
They are both grateful that this apprenticeship exists at Fort Campbell.
"It has been a great learning experience," Thapa said. "Here it's like your own kitchen, you learn a lot. Everything tastes so different, homemade. And you enjoy it because you made it."
"I've learned knife skills, I think that's the most important thing," Halton said.
Although when she enlisted food service specialist was the one job available to her, Halton said she does not regret her choice. "I love to cook and I have kids so I thought 'why not.'"
In addition to proper knife skills, Halton enjoyed learning how to make fresh pasta and pizza dough, which she plans to make often at home with her children.
"My kids already ask me when am I going to make some more pizza," she said. "I'm so happy right now."