News: Hot food, cold drinks, warm hearts
Story by Spc. Christopher Smythers
ORO GRANDE BASE CAMP, N.M. – Amid the many thankless jobs scattered throughout the Army lies the cook.
It is easy to see why so many cooks find their job disheartening:
– The work hours are longer than most other jobs.
– Meals must be prepared every day of the year.
– When the food is good, no one speaks.
– When the food is less than expected, complaints come in droves.
It can be hard for those who prepare the Army’s meals to stay motivated in the face of such a discouraging reality, but the best soldiers can shine under the most challenging circumstances.
Pvt. John Horsley, 20, a food specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, accepts the challenge and performs well in situations where many would fade.
“I have to do the best I can,” said Horsley, originally from Amherst, Va. “I know it’s an important job.”
It may not be a glamorous job, but it is important work, he said.
Soldiers have to eat, and the alternative is a cold, pre-packaged meal.
“It’s good to know that you're putting food in people's bellies as they’re coming back from missions,” he said. “They may not have had a hot meal in days.”
Horsley, who celebrated one year in the Army July 15, frequently replenishes the food and drink supply in the dining tent. Providing a wide variety of food to his hungry customers is a responsibility he takes very seriously.
“I feel pride when people see extra stuff in our chow tent,” he said. “I try to put as much as I can out here. It’s hard to keep up sometimes, but I just keep working. You have to put all you have into it.”
“He’s very dedicated,” said Sgt. Juval Mendoza, Horsley’s supervisor. “He’s a good soldier. Anything that needs to be done, he’ll do it.”
He displays a level of leadership uncommon among privates, said Mendoza. New cooks in the unit look up to and respect Horsley. They have been learning from him, and he knows it.
“Sometimes it’s really hard,” said Horsley, “but, if I break down, the soldiers that look up to me will break down.”
Despite the tremendous amount of work that goes into preparing meals, the job can be very satisfying, he said.
“Food is the mood changer of the Army,” he said. “People come in grumpy, but usually feel better when they have a full stomach.
“One of my favorite parts of the job is making people happy. I love hearing them say, ‘This meal is really good,’ or, ‘I like this.’”
“They have a lot of food and a lot of variety,” said Pvt. Alexis Taylor, a unit supply specialist with 3-1 BSTB, who was celebrating her birthday. “They had an Asian food day, fresh fruit every day and they even gave me a cake for my birthday. I’m really looking forward to eating that.”
People often take food for granted, and the commonness of prepared meals can cause diners to overlook the time and effort that goes into making them.
Regardless, Horsley, along with the other cooks of the 3rd IBCT, will continue to keep the hungry, tired soldiers of the Army fed.