News: Chili cook-off spices up life at JBLM
Story by Sgt. Jacqueline Fennell
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. — Laughter and music echoed in the background as an aroma filled the air with the finest of spices, vegetables and personalized selections of meat that brewed in the courtyard.
Soldiers from the Warrior Transition Battalion displayed their esprit de corps, March 23, by wearing cowboy hats, boots, firemen uniforms and even rock star attire while sharing their best recipes and competing against each other in the fourth-annual chili cook-off.
"It's not just about cooking chili; it's about getting them out and letting them enjoy themselves and tying them to the civilian population here," said Amin A. Arreola, the outreach program coordinator for the soldier and Family Assistance Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Injured or ill soldiers from the WTB use the recreational outlets and community partnerships provided by the SFAC in order to promote a quicker recovery and prepare them for transitioning back to their units or back to civilian life.
"One of the best things about the chili cook-off is that soldiers get out of their rooms, and mingle with people," said Arreola a retired sergeant major with conviction for what it's like to be a wounded warrior himself. "I believe morale is really enhanced by having events like the chili cook-off."
Arreola added that the cook-off helps soldiers laugh while giving them a little humor apart from the very stressful life of recovering.
Arreola is not the only person who values the effectiveness of boosting morale to promote recovery and healing.
"It gets us out of our rooms, and changes up the pace," said Spc. Nicole Mellies, a wounded warrior assigned to B Company, who participated this year, adding that it brings her happiness.
Mellies' and her teammates enjoyed cooking the chili; however, they experienced even more satisfaction by representing their unit.
"It put a little competition between the companies by firing things up to get us motivated and it helps when you're motivated because then you want to heal and transition back to your units or to a civilian," said Mellies.
Mellies' team, “Crazy 180s”, were not only fired up but took first place in this year's cook-off.
Soldiers were not the only participants showcasing chili skills in the annual competition, local community members who sponsored the event also competed.
Colleen Logan, who volunteers with Soldiers’ Angels, a non-profit volunteer-led organization that supports and provides aide to the military, shared that she took part in the chili cook-off because she understands the trials endured by military service members.
"Being in the military is a hard job and isn't for everybody, I just wanted to give something back," said Logan who has three nephews who are currently in the armed services.
In the process of cooking chili, vital relationships between the WTB, SFAC and sponsors in the local community simmer and grow in the same pot to continue the legacy of helping soldiers recover and produce a recipe for healing at JBLM.