FORT IRWIN, CA, UNITED STATES
Story by Spc. Caleb Stone
FORT IRWIN, Calif.- Soldiers with the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team arrived at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin California on July 11, 2021, as part of their annual training. Soldiers will train in an austere desert environment to sharpen their existing skills and learn new ones.
“Soldiers have no energy when they do not receive the proper nutrition,” said Pvt. Grace English, a food service specialist from 700 Brigade Support Battalion assigned to the 45th IBCT.
‘We are the fuel for the Soldiers,” said Sgt, Darren Shastid of the 700th Brigade Support Battalion when asked why food preparation was important. “Without food, they won’t have the energy to do anything.”
Working long hours it is not easy to provide nourishment for hundreds of Soldiers at a time.
“I’ve never worked in an environment like this for as long as this,” said Cpl. Zhonghua Tang also of the 700th BSB. “It is an important job. If we don’t cook the food right it could make Soldiers sick.”
Food service specialists like Tang bring a mixture of civilian and military training that helps them succeed.
“I have been a manager, a cook, and a server at a restaurant, so I know what it is like, even if it wasn’t in this environment,” said Tang.
It isn’t just about the food though; being a cook puts service members in a unique position to impact other members of the brigade’s daily lives and even their communities back at home.
“When I enlisted I wanted to be able to help people,” said Spc. Moises Valdez of the 700th BSB. “I wanted to be able to do something that would provide a morale boost.”
“I feel like we’ve gotten a good handle on the training,” said Spc. Joseph Vint of the 700th BSB. “Getting the experience of feeding troops in the field like this can be really stressful, but I am grateful for the experience.”
The training has also helped strengthen the bonds between Soldiers working together.
“I love working with them. Since coming to NTC I’ve seen more teamwork than ever before,” said English.
Experience is not the only thing that the National Guard has to offer its Soldiers. There is also financial assistance for specialized courses such as Security+, a cyber-security program that validates baseline skills in information technology and cyber-security.
“The Guard is full of opportunities if you look for them,” said Shastid. “They are paying for me to take a Security+ course to help with my civilian job. That course can cost upwards of $3000, so it is nice to not have to pay that out of pocket.”
While NTC is a challenging experience for everyone involved, the Soldiers of the 45th IBCT have shown that they are ready and willing to meet the challenge.
“I am grateful to be here and grateful for the support I’ve had from back home,” said Vint. “It’s cliche, but I also want to thank my parents and my family for their support. Everything we do is for them.”