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Face of Defense: Soldiers Cook Up Smiles in El Salvador

By Army Staff Sgt. Ian Shay
U.S. Army South

SONSONATE, El Salvador, May 21, 2013 – Before coming to exercise Beyond the Horizon El Salvador 2013 here, soldiers might have expected to eat only a steady diet of packaged rations for the two-week duration. But fortunately for them, Joint Task Force Jaguar is equipped with Army-trained cooks and a mobile kitchen trailer.

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Army Spc. Jordan Humble, right, works quickly to serve up food to hundreds of hungry soldiers in Sonsonate, El Salvador, during the Beyond the Horizon El Salvador 2013 exercise, May 17, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ian Shay

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Army Sgt. 1st Class Edward George Haggett Jr. of the New Hampshire National Guard, noncommissioned officer in charge, explained his favorite part of the job.

“I like when the soldiers go through the line and have a smile on their face, because they know they’re going to get a good meal,” he said.

The Army mobile kitchen trailer can serve up to 300 people in an hour and can be set up in 30 minutes.

“It’s a lot of hard work,” Haggett said. “People don’t always understand the work that goes behind the scenes. They just see what is on the line.”

Like Haggett, Army Sgt. Tabitha Roethel of the Wisconsin National Guard, a cook assigned to 107th Maintenance Company in Sparta, Wis., enjoys making soldiers happy.

“I like making people smile,” she said. “Food service is like customer service. We are the first faces you see in the morning and the last faces you see at night.”

Roethel said that while she understands that soldiers may not always like the menu being served, she does her best to motivate soldiers by asking questions as she serves their meals. Whether it is asking each soldier to sing a favorite song lyric or quoting their favorite movie line, she said, she finds a way to bring out the smiles.

“I ask questions to cheer soldiers up, because I know they’ve had a long, hot, hard day, and I know sometimes the food isn’t the best. So if I can get a little smile out of them, maybe they will have a better evening and wake-up tomorrow in a better mood,” she said.

Beyond the Horizon El Salvador is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored, U.S. Army South-led joint foreign military interaction and humanitarian exercise.


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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Sgt. Tabitha Roethel produces a smile as she stumps a hungry cadet with her question of the day in Sonsonate, El Salvador, during the Beyond the Horizon El Salvador 2013 exercise, May 17, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ian Shay  
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