Sgt. 1st Class Vilaykone Saynorath

Years of service: 15
Current position: Event Coordinator/Catering Noncommissioned Officer-in-Charge
Current unit: Office of the Administrative Assistant
Component: Army
Current location: The Pentagon
Hometown: Kannapolis, N.C.
Born in: Vientiane, Laos
Age: 34

Now a Sergeant First Class in the U.S. Army, her father brought her family to the U.S. from Laos when she was just 5-years-old with a vision of a better life for his family.

Sgt. 1st Class Vilaykone Saynorath has continued to build on her father's dream, joining the Army after graduating high school in 1994 with hopes of a college education and a chance to see the world.

Since then, Saynorath has earned her Associates of Arts degree in General Studies, is working on her Bachelor of Arts degree in Management, has lived in three different countries and has visited more than she can count.

"I traveled a lot while I was in Germany," she said. "I really took advantage of the fact that it was so easy and that you didn't need a passport, just your military ID."

In addition to the education benefits and opportunities to travel, Saynorath credits the Soldiers themselves for attracting her to the Army.

"In the Army you get to meet all kinds of people with unique personalities and make friends for life," said Saynorath. "And you always see them again. Even though the Army's large, it's small."

Saynorath noted that she's been fortunate enough to meet many people eager to mentor, and credits them with her ability to get where she is today.

"So many different people would take me by the hand and say 'do this', 'don't do that,'" she said. "Without the people who have guided me throughout the years I wouldn't be here."

Today Saynorath is a catering Noncommissioned Officer-in-Charge and event coordinator in the Army's Executive Dining Facility - a members-only facility for General Officers and Senior Executive Service civilians. She coordinates between the staff and the kitchen to determine the feasibility of different events, comes up with schedules, delegates work, trains wait staff, and even decides on the menus.

She appreciates the "hands-on" nature of her work, saying that she "like(s) being enlisted because (she) get(s) more opportunities to see the working force and how every soldier is doing their part to make everything come together."

Saynorath will begin her next tour of duty this November, working as an enlisted aide to Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz at Fort Myer, Va. She will continue to work on personal projects including a cookbook she hopes to publish. She also plans to one day open up her own restaurant using the skills she learned in the Army.