By by 2nd Lt. Robert DurrMarch 11, 2010
FORT LEE, Va. (March 11, 2020) -- As the 35th U.S. Army Culinary Arts Competition enters its final days at Fort Lee, onlookers are left with lasting memories of five-star cuisine and elaborate table displays that showcased the talents of the military's food service professionals.
For one team, this year's competition held special significance. It was an opportunity for them to pay tribute to the victims of the Nov. 5, 2009 shootings at Fort Hood, Texas. The team representing that installation created a memorable table display that garnered high marks from competition judges.
When it came time to choose a theme for this year's event, the decision was unanimous: a memorial honoring America's fallen heroes, noted Team Fort Hood captain, Staff Sgt. Luis Pena.
"We did the table and memorial in memory of the spirit of every fallen comrade," Pena said.
"As a memorial, we all agreed it was something we could feel from our hearts," added Spc. Rose Picard, a team member with 15 years of experience as a pastry chef.
Spc. Brian Visciglia is among the team's first-time competitors, but he earned Fort Hood two gold medals with his patriotic contribution to the display.
"(We) felt obligated to pay tribute to the fallen Soldiers," he said. "What was originally a tribute to the victims of the Fort Hood shootings grew into something that would honor all of America's fallen heroes."
While this year's event is Pena's third competition, it is his first with Fort Hood. Fulfilling his role as team captain, Pena lends his experience and skills to young Soldiers, many of whom are competing for the first time.
"As a team, they did an excellent job," Pena said.
Team Fort Hood clearly benefitted from Pena's mentorship. It's evident in the number of awards the group has received so far at this year's competition. The count includes three gold medals.
Seasoned Soldiers like Fort Hood's team manager, Master Sgt. Anthony Roscoe, take pride in their profession in the culinary arts.
With more than 20 years of experience, Roscoe is in a great place; he is doing what he loves. He sees how his job significantly impacts the lives of Soldiers on a daily basis.
"Soldiers want a good meal every day," Roscoe said.
For his young Soldiers, the culinary competition is a way to improve their skills while recognizing excellence in the spirit of competition.
Preparation is something not to be taken lightly when it comes to winning, Spc. John Reddick said. It takes getting into the right frame of mind.
"Mentally, you have to get your mind right and you have to focus on what you have to do," Reddick said.
The competition at Fort Lee is one way these Soldiers are paving their way into the future. Reddick said it's the interaction and learning opportunities behind the scenes that makes the competition worthwhile.
"This is a big step forward in my career," Reddick said.
"I feel real good. I'm proud of them," Pena said. "Next year they will be even better."