Soldier Connects Cuisine and Heritage on USAG-KA

By Jessica DambruchOctober 25, 2022

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Yessenia Johnson Receives Promotion
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Yessenia Johnson, following her Feb. 1, 2022 promotion ceremony on U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll. (Photo Credit: Jessica Dambruch) VIEW ORIGINAL

What inspired you to join the U.S. Army?

I was inspired to join the Army as a young woman seeking an adventure, education, travel opportunities, and financial security. I decided to join the Army the summer of 2001, where I enlisted as a private as a food service specialist. Since that time, that military occupational specialty has been renamed culinary specialist.

Please share some of the places you’ve lived and worked.

Prior to the Army I lived in New Jersey and Puerto Rico. My mother is Puerto Rican and my father is Cuban. After joining the service, I lived in Texas, New York, Georgia, Iraq, Afghanistan and now in the Marshall Islands.

I’m assigned to the U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll Directorate of Logistics as the food service officer. Some of my duties include being the eyes and ears, as the contracting officer representative for seven Performance Work Statement lines which entail retail groceries, dining facilities, food warehouses and laundry services. Additional duties include alternate postal custodian of personal effects, primary government purchase card holder, facilitating the COVID-19 tranche list, and willingness to fill any areas my leaders or teammates need me to do.

I feel very fortunate to be here in such a beautiful country, beautiful culture, and people. I’ve always loved cultures and understanding the views of others to see how we think so similar in many ways and differ in other ways.

Human beings grow from each interaction, good and bad. They establish a network of people, ideas and values which help shape individuals and ultimately make them appreciate things that are often taken for granted.

Please tell us about your passion for food.

I always had a passion for eating food; especially an extra-large pizza with pepperoni—one for me, and one for my uncle Papo while we watched “Twilight Zone” reruns on a Saturday night.

My family, like so many, show love and passion in the kitchen. I remember my great-grandmother, grandmother and now my mother cooking meals that brought the entire family together.

I have always enjoyed the food industry. I learned through my family to find enjoyment in watching people united enjoying a meal. I’m no chef, but my love for food has shaped who I am. I enjoy the intricacies of management of earnings, expenditures, plate costs and menu planning for military food establishments.

Please share with us what you most appreciate about the efforts of the local national workforce to support food services on Kwajalein.

I love working with other professionals who really show passion for what they do, and our team here on ground do just that seven days a week. The Marshallese people are so amazing and such a dedicated work force. They work long hours, weekends, and holidays to make the dining experience a great one here on Kwajalein and Roi. I most enjoy the beautiful smiles, humbleness, wisdom and grace.

What are some of the next big programs you are working on at the dining facilities?

I am working with Ronald Jenkins, the Capt. Louis S. Zamperini Cafeteria dining services manager, to get our "famous" chicken tenders a few nights per week for dinner meals. Our upcoming holiday luncheon is Thanksgiving, on Nov. 24.

I am also working with Phillip Kenley, Surfway operations manager, and Everald Allen, class-one yard warehouse, as well on new ways to improve the recurring issues we experience with our Defense Commissary Agency distributor for the Surfway stores on Kwajalein and Roi.

What do you most enjoy about Kwajalein?

I truly enjoy everything about life on the island to include the beautiful postcard sceneries we see daily, the safety our community has, the two-minute bike rides to get to work, and the amazing people I get to interact with every day.