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Face of Defense: Food Inspector Keeps Troops Safe in Liberia

By Army Staff Sgt. V. Michelle Woods 27th Public Affairs Detachment

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MONROVIA, Liberia, Dec. 30, 2014 — Army Spc. Rysper Sirma is used to having to report to work on short notice. As a food inspection specialist here, she’s on call around the clock to keep her fellow Operation United Assistance service members safe, because food inspection requires strict time and safety parameters.

But when Sirma got a call Dec. 26 to report to the joint operations center at Barclay Training center here, the 463rd Medical Detachment soldier was recognized by Army Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, commander of Joint Forces Command United Assistance, for her exemplary performance.

Division Coin, Helicopter Ride

Each week, Volesky recognizes a service member supporting Operation United Assistance, presenting a division coin at a ceremony and taking the service member on a helicopter ride around the joint operations area.

Sirma said she was surprised and a little nervous to be receiving a coin from Volesky, noting that he is the first general officer she has met.

Army Capt. Kristopher Appler, commander of the 463rd Medical Detachment, based out of Fort Benning, Georgia, said Sirma works far beyond the level expected of her rank.

“She has inspected more than $400,000 of operational rations and over 10,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables,” he said. “She’s the first line of defense for all food and water.”

Day or night, Sirma is on call. All incoming food must be inspected as soon as it arrives via ship or plane.

First Deployment, But Familiar With Africa

Though this is Sirma’s first deployment, she said Liberia’s scenery is very familiar to her.

“It may be a culture shock to soldiers who have never been to Africa, but for me, it’s very similar to where I’m from,” said Sirma, a native of Eldoret, Kenya.

Sirma said she speaks nine African languages and holds a bachelor’s degree from Harding University in Arkansas. Prior to deploying to Liberia, she participated as a member of the Army 10-Miler team in Washington.

After receiving a scholarship to attend Harding University and completing her degree, Sirma said, she wanted to join the military to give back to the community for paying for her to attend school in the United States. She also wanted to become an American citizen, she added, and serving in the military gave her that opportunity.

“She is educated, motivated and dedicated to her mission, her brothers and sisters in uniform, and her country,” Appler said.

Sirma said she intends to make the military a career and hopes eventually to earn a commission.