CAMP RAMDADI, Iraq - Hundreds of deployed troops - plus civilian contractors and local national employees - swarm the dining facility at Camp Ramadi, Iraq, every evening, eager to fill their stomachs with a hot meal. But despite what's featured on the night's menu, one Army cook is ensuring that these troops are first fed a healthy smile.

"You just never know what someone may be going through," said Sgt. Cheryl Hamilton, a food service specialist assigned to the Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, as she greeted every person who entered Ramadi Cafe.

Sergeant Hamilton is responsible for collecting an accurate head-count at dinner and midnight chow, but said it is equally important that she includes a warm welcoming with her daily duties.
"I greet everyone, even though I don't have to, because sometimes a simple 'Good evening' may be all that someone needs to help brighten up their day," she said.

This is Sgt. Hamilton's third deployment to Iraq, but this time around she isn't cooking.
"It's a little bit different from what I am used to," she said, "but, now instead of preparing food in the back, I get to see everyone's face and watch them enjoy their meals.

"I am a noncommissioned officer now," she continued, "so my job also includes taking care of my Soldiers."

One such Soldier is Spc. Ebony Hall who says that Sgt. Hamilton is not only serving up smiles to fellow Soldiers, but she is also a trusted source of strength for many troops who may encounter a lot of stress.

"She's basically helped me to get through this deployment," Spc. Hall said of her NCO, adding that Sgt. Hamilton was there for her when her grandmother passed away one year ago. "She's helped me to get through a lot of things, and has taught me how to trust and be more patient."
Sergeant Hamilton said she credits her ability to console others to her strong faith in the Lord, and added that it is that same faith that helped her to overcome her own life struggles.

"There's been a time when I seriously struggled; I was even homeless at one point," Sgt. Hamilton said. "I even experienced racial prejudice in my own house. But you just have to keep moving forward, and work for what you want to achieve."

Sergeant Hamilton said she is successful now, having joined the Army and strengthening her faith.
"Keep your faith in the Lord," she said. "He will see you through. And there's nothing like service with a smile."