SPRINGFIELD, MO, UNITED STATES
Story by Spc. Joshua Holladay
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Two 1st Infantry Division culinary specialists visited several high schools within the Springfield, Missouri metropolitan area February 27 through March 3, 2023.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Withney S. Martin and Spc. John J. McNeil visited home economics classes at Branson High School, Parkview High School, Ozark High School, and Joplin High School to speak about their careers in the Army and what kind of opportunities they have been afforded while serving.
“I really enjoyed being able to share what I do in the Army,” said Martin, the 2022 Fort Riley Cook Of The Year winner . “I think it’s important to know that you have options.”
McNeil’s biggest takeaway to the week was getting to learn about the impact his job has on people through his noncommissioned officer and the interactions with the students.
“This event strengthened the noncommissioned officer-to-Soldier relationship,” McNeil said. “It shows how much cohesion and teamwork goes into our job within the aspects of a leader and subordinate.”
Part of being a noncommissioned officer is to provide outstanding leadership for Soldiers that they are responsible for. Being the backbone of the Army, noncommissioned officers are responsible for ensuring that their Soldiers are the best version of themselves they can possibly be.
“Ensuring that a Soldier is trained to the standard will ensure that the United States Army will continue to be the greatest fighting force,” Martin said. “The backbone of the Army is strong enough to make sure that everyone is capable of fighting, winning, and keeping our families safe.”
The students spent the week asking McNeil and Martin about the opportunities, daily life, responsibilities, schooling, and overall lifestyle of a culinary specialist. The students also got to help Martin and McNeil cook several meals, such as bananas foster french toast, spaghetti, potato croquettes, and butternut squash soup.
At the conclusion of the trip, McNeil learned quite a bit more about the Army and the communities they serve in light of being a cook for more than food; he has an impact on people’s lives. He credited what he learned from this week to Martin.
“She is a great asset to us and has shown that many times over,” McNeil said. “You can talk to her about anything and learn a lot from her by working with her at any given time.”