News: Taking care of soldiers
Story by Tech. Sgt. Mark Wyatt
SONSONATE, El Salvador – Sgt. 1st Class Edward Haggett loves to feed troops. He loves to feed them in Iraq or in New Hampshire. Or here on the side of a mountain overlooking a beautiful city seeing the sunrise on his mobile kitchen every morning and watching it set on his kitchen every night.
Working out of a Mobile Kitchen Trailer in a northern section of El Salvador at a camp called Military District Six, or, Distrito Militar Seis, Haggett appreciates that after a long day working out in extreme temperatures; soldiers just want a good meal to eat.
“I love it when they come through the MKT and see smiles on their face just after they finished working their tail off on a job,” said the Joint Task Force Jaguar food services noncommissioned officer. “Their smiling because they’re looking forward to a good hot meal. I love being the one who provides it to them.”
Haggett and other soldiers are here in El Salvador as part of a select group that have come together to form a joint task force that will carry out Beyond the Horizon-El Salvador, a humanitarian exercise that began in late March and will run through late June.
When the commander of the task force was assigned the mission of BTH and began selecting the best to ensure success, the first person he thought of was the 23 year veteran of food service.
“The very first Soldier that Command Sgt. Maj. Speltz and I selected for this mission was Sgt. 1st Class Haggett,” said Lt. Col. Raymond Valas, Joint Task Force Jaguar commander. “I served with him in Iraq and saw first-hand how serious he takes feeding soldiers.”
It was in Iraq when he first worked for then Capt. Valas, both as members of Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry, (Mountain) that he began to appreciate his role in the fight.
“I went into a staff meeting in Iraq with the command sergeant major who was talking about how much respect she had for soldiers who went outside the wire on missions,” said Haggett.
So after the meeting, Haggett approached the sergeant major and wanted to do more for soldiers in his unit who go outside the wire every day.
“I have 180 guys that go outside the wire every single day,” Haggett said. “I want to do more for them. Can I provide a cookout meal for them more than just once a year, maybe once a month?”
She agreed and said, “Sgt. Haggett, you bring me that memo once a month and I will sign it.”
For the soldiers that earned the respect of the sergeant major by stepping outside the wire every day, knowing what awaited them when they returned made it a little easier.
“It was a little piece of home for those of us that went outside [the wire] each day,” said Staff Sgt. Derek Downey, Joint Task Force Jaguar medical plans noncommissioned officer in charge. “Sgt. 1st Class Haggett cares very much about what he does and it shows by the effort he puts into it.”
Another example of his nurturing way is a story Sgt. 1st Class Haggett describes as his “best memory in the military” while on the same deployment to Iraq.
“I was able to go to a school in Iraq and have an opportunity to play the harmonica for Iraqi children,” Haggett said. “The kids were amazed by it and surrounded me wanting to hear more.”
Later that same day, after reflecting on the impact the harmonica had on the school children, he asked the commander if he were able to have 30 harmonicas donated, could he go back and give them to the same children at the school.
“After I had the harmonicas, I went back to the same school and taught the kids how to play it,” continued Haggett. “I then gave them to each of the kids to keep, they were thrilled.”
It’s that same sense of giving that drives Haggett to be the best food service soldier he can be.
“When you do something and people reward you with a thank you, it’s all I need to know they appreciate the effort I put in,” Haggett said.
For Haggett, taking care of soldiers is what drives him to be his best every day on these missions.
Beyond the Horizon is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored, Army South-led, joint-foreign interaction and humanitarian exercise which will occur in El Salvador.