REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. - From pastry chef, to college graduate, to staff sergeant, to newly-minted second lieutenant. That's the path 2nd Lt. AndrAfA Powell followed to get to Army Basic Officer Leader Course 1 graduation day.

Powell pinned on as a second lieutenant on Aug. 6, 2009, at a ceremony at Fort Benning, Ga., after completing the first of three officer leadership courses.

Powell's story begins right out of high school when he attended a well-known culinary arts school.

"I worked as a pastry chef for 15 years," Powell said. "It paid the bills and was my way of supporting myself and my family as I worked my way through college."

Powell graduated from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in 1997 with a degree in philosophy, and a few years later he was looking to "do something different." In 2002, he enlisted in the Army.

"My original plan was to join the military, begin a new career, and get out," Powell noted. "I chose the Army because I would be able to provide for my family and at the same time get trained in a new career," he said.

Seven years later, Powell is still in the military. "My original plan of 'get in, get out' didn't really work out that well," he said with a smile.

Powell enlisted as a specialist in the Army and served his basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., where he picked up his military occupation specialty: 25S, satellite communications.

"I was attracted to the technical side of satellite communications," Powell commented. "It was something new and interesting."

After basic, Powell was off to Fort Gordon, Ga. for satellite communications school before his first overseas tour in 2003.

"My first assignment was in the 52nd Signal Battalion, Stuttgart, Germany, where I became a team leader at the Joint Nuclear Operations Center, in support of European Command, operating and maintaining Milstar communications," Powell stated.

Powell spent 3 A,A1/2 years in Germany before a permanent change of station to U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command in June 2007.

"At USASMDC/ARSTRAT, I was the commanding general's communications noncommissioned officer for a year before moving to the G-3 as operations sergeant," he said.

It was here at USASMDC/ARSTRAT Headquarters where Powell began to think about taking his career in a new direction.

"I really was looking for something more," Powell said. "I worked alongside such a fine caliber of officers at USASMDC/ARSTRAT," Powell said. "That inspired me to take my career another step forward."

While working as communications NCO in the command group, Powell was recognized for his leadership potential.

"Andre Powell is a terrific representation of the command and the Army," said Lt. Col. Brian W. Adams, deputy director, Missile Defense Capabilities Division, Future Warfare Center, USASMDC/ARSTRAT. "He served our CG to the fullest and provided excellent support. He earned the trust, confidence, and respect of the command. And, he got a perfect 300 on his Army Physical Fitness Test and was the fastest runner in the two mile event of anyone in the command," Adams noted.

Once Powell decided on becoming an officer, the process moved quickly.

"I submitted my packet in November 2008, and reported to BOLC 1 in May 2009.

"There were physical and mental challenges to being back in a course like that," Powell said. "The physical challenges included a rigorous physical training schedule with lots of running. There were a handful of candidates who were "recycled" because of injuries, and there was the worry that something like that could happen and delay my graduation," he said.

"The danger of being recycled was that you were sent to the Headquarters and Headquarters Company for 'area beautification training,' Powell said while laughing. "If you failed a portion of the course, you were recycled and had to wait until the next class began to retake it," he added.

Powell said that the physical rigors were only some of the challenges of the course.

"We had a U.S. history course that was a whole college semester course boiled down into a two-week span and broken up by three weeks in the field," Powell commented. "The class encompassed the pre-revolutionary war era through Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. This course was tough, and after each test there were approximately 20 failures," he said.

"The cadre called off the names of those who failed. That was a lot of pressure and I was relieved I passed the test," Powell commented.

Powell successfully avoided being recycled, and he graduated BOLC 1 on Aug. 6, 2009.

USASMDC/ARSTRAT has Powell until early October. He will then continue his training at BOLC 2 and BOLC 3 at Fort Benning before reporting to his new duty station in April.

"My first assignment as an officer will be with the 1st Cavalry, 1st Brigade at Fort Hood, Texas," Powell shared.

Not only will Powell be a brand new second lieutenant at his first assignment, he will also be a new husband. He is getting married in March 2010.