The Guard Provides Food for Thought

A National Guard Soldier serves a comrade at food service Napoleon Bonaparte said that an army marches on its stomach. Why? Because soldiers in his army were more likely to perish from spoiled food than from combat. Food was so important to him that he offered a sizable financial award to anyone who could develop a reliable food preservation method (which led to modern canning methodologies, by the way).

In fact, food is so important to the military that there’s an entire strategy known as supply line combat dedicated to cutting off an enemy army from the supply line that will keep it fed. How’s that for the power of food, glorious food?

While the issues of food spoilage have been largely taken care of, and hundreds of years of experience (the first Quartermaster General was appointed in the Revolutionary War) help U.S. forces keep supply lines open, getting a palatable meal in the field is still no piece of cake. That’s where the Army National Guard’s Quartermaster Corps comes in.

“I love being part of a great Quartermaster Corps tradition,” said Sergeant (SGT) Ryan Sablan, a 10-year Guard member. “[It’s] the opportunity to support Soldiers and perform mission-critical tasks every drill that makes it a really attractive detail.”

But it’s not the only thing that makes it attractive, though. The members of the Quartermaster Corps also participate in community events. To paraphrase an old saying, “the way to a community’s heart is through its stomach,” you might say.

SGT Sablan’s Oregon National Guard unit recently participated in a Special Olympics charities event.

“It is predominantly a community relations and worthy charity event,” SGT Sablan said. “However, the food service section will be using actual field equipment and Army food program procedures to provide the necessary food product safely and in a large quantity. The Iron Chef-style competition is an opportunity to represent the Army and the Oregon National Guard on stage.”

It will also disprove a lot of long-standing misconceptions about Army food and food service.

“The Oregon Army National Guard has some very good chefs within its food service sections and we may take the competition by surprise,” said SGT Sablan. “We will even be represented by two food service specialists with formal culinary education in their civilian background.”

Starting with Armed Forces recipe cards, SGT Sablan and his team prepared delectable delights for a crowd of hungry Special Olympians, their families, and other fans at the event. But the Army is not so rigid as to expect these fine culinary artisans to keep from embellishing the basic recipes.

“Lead cooks and other section leadership sometimes enhance the end product using the proper guidance from reference materials from the State and the Army,” SGT Sablan said. “I don’t think any ingredients are a secret: it’s all about when and how you use them. I usually like to garnish with red bell peppers.”

For example, one military staple is a cream gravy with ground beef in it, served over a piece of toast. This dish is known as SOS. Since On Your Guard is a family-friendly blog, we won’t translate that, but it’s not exactly the kind of name that will make your mouth water. But to hear SGT Sablan talk about it, that’s really unfair.

“I think anyone who makes [SOS] outside of the Army makes it a little differently,” SGT Sablan said. “My dad used to serve it with hard-boiled eggs between the gravy and the toast. I spike mine with garlic and onions. Sometimes some dry sherry or white wine will find its way into the gravy. It’s not low-calorie.”

Talk about catching more flies with honey, huh? Cream, garlic, and white wine? Seriously? This is the Army?


“Ultimately, we listen to the customer,” SGT Sablan said. “So Soldiers who give feedback to us have a large amount of power over their own menu from month to month.”

And those lucky enough to have been at the Special Olympics charity event now know just what kind of tasty treats can come out of a Containerized Kitchen (CK) staffed by highly trained and dedicated Army National Guard Soldiers.

It may be even more surprising, though, how much Guard experience can help members in every aspect of their life, especially in a civilian food service career.

“[Because of the National Guard] I have been able to pay for some of my education and provide myself with part-time employment to supplement [my income]. I am a tenured food service professional and manager as a civilian,” SGT Sablan said. “The civilian food service industry is largely compatible with the Army food service program. Aside from field equipment, the Army kitchens do not contain any unique appliances or tools. In the last 20 years I’ve worked in correctional facilities, assisted living facilities, bar and grills, fast food, higher education, and family dining.”

All that said, SGT Sablan added: “I think the team spirit and camaraderie are my favorite aspects of the Guard.”

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Shifting a Career Into High Gear

A young woman soldier works on a mechanical challenge Back in 2010, 19-year-old Chelsea Trolli didn’t need to join the Army National Guard. She had already been accepted at a good university, chosen a demanding major in architectural engineering, and worked in a hospital. Truth be told, it probably would have been easier for her to continue on without the service. That is except for one little detail: Serving her country was a childhood dream.

“I wanted to join the military ever since I was little,” PFC Trolli said. “I was actually going to join the Marines until I saw the benefits the Guard offered.”

Guard benefits are extensive, but the one that that clinched it for Ms. Trolli was part-time service.

“There are the education benefits that help pay for school, and the technical nature of the jobs available, but I loved how you could still go to school while serving in the Army National Guard,” PFC Trolli said.

So she signed on the dotted line, and what did she choose as her Guard career? Mechanics.

For many, a mechanic’s garage might be the least likely place you would expect to find a young woman working toward a bright and amazing future. But PFC Chelsea Trolli isn’t defined by convention.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re female,” she said. “Just because being a mechanic isn’t really looked on as ‘a woman’s position’ didn’t mean I couldn’t do it. If that’s how other women choose their job, that’s them holding themselves back.”

It’s not like she had experience as a mechanic, either. She hadn’t even tinkered on the family lawn mower.

“I didn’t know anything about mechanics when I joined. I just wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity before me.” PFC Trolli said. “So I picked something I had always been interested in but didn’t know anything about.”

Now, two years later and after training in three mechanics-related Military Occupational Specialties, PFC Trolli is qualified and relied upon to work on multimillion dollar military vehicles. From the massive eight-wheel Stryker to tracked vehicles to more conventional motorized transports, her duties can be summed up fairly easily: She troubleshoots, services, and maintains whatever vehicle the Guard throws at her. That is unless she’s going out on the wrecker herself to retrieve a damaged vehicle.

But just because her job can be summed up fairly easily, doesn’t make it simple. There are always challenges that a Private First Class (soon to be Specialist) just doesn’t have the experience to tackle alone. PFC Trolli uses these situations as an opportunity to learn.

“There’s always someone there to teach you, always someone there to help you,” she said. “You still have the ranks, but it’s a real team environment. Everyone looks out for each other … as a Soldier and as a civilian.”

Speaking of life as a civilian, one of the most common questions Army National Guard Recruiters are asked is how the skills Soldiers learn translate into the civilian world. Often the answer is in terms like leadership, discipline, and earning the respect of a grateful Nation. All true, of course. But for PFC Trolli, Guard service translates directly into every facet of her civilian life. For example, she now has a dual-major. She’s keeping architectural engineering and has added automotive engineering.

“I’m going to design engines and systems for vehicles,” PFC Trolli said. “I figured the Guard is more hands-on and really complements what I’m doing in class. Also, college is easier now that I went through the Guard. I’m more focused and learned to manage my time better.”

Also, PFC Trolli has recently accepted a position at a civilian automotive repair facility. After all, they say practice makes perfect.

“I think working and going to school for the same thing will make it easier. I’ll do it every day now.”

And if that doesn’t convince you that you can discover a fantastic future in the Army National Guard, PFC Trolli had just one last thing to say, “I recommend Guard service to anybody.”

Find your fantastic future now by browsing the Army National Guard jobs board.

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Time for a Fight: Staff Sergeant Tim Kennedy

MMA fighter and Army National Guard Soldier Tim Kennedy

National Guard Staff Sergeant Tim Kennedy

If you were to create the perfect Soldier, it might start with the warrior’s spirit, world-class athleticism, and the ability to hit a bulls-eye from half a mile away. But perfection is an unreal goal, isn’t it?

Don’t tell that to Army National Guard Staff Sergeant (SSG) Tim Kennedy.


Warrior’s spirit? Check. SSG Kennedy is a Ranger Qualified Green Beret and decorated combat veteran who was awarded the Bronze Star for valor under fire.

World class athlete? Check. With an impressive 14-4 professional mixed martial arts record (MMA), SSG Kennedy is the 16th ranked middleweight in the MMA Combined Rankings. That’s number 16 in the world. The whole world.

Straight shooter? Check. SSG Kennedy is a Special Forces Sniper and can also put four shots into a one-inch grouping with an assault rifle while on the move.

SSG Kennedy is also a husband and a father. He has been featured on multiple television programs. He works out two or three times a day (a DAY!).

And to relax? Does he crack open a cold one and watch the game? No. He cooks.

Translation: He is one tough, motivated, and dedicated guy, but there’s one thing not even SSG Kennedy can do: twist the space-time continuum.

“I love to fight, I love to shoot, and I love being a Green Beret,” SSG Kennedy said. “But I didn’t have time to do it all.”

That could easily be the understatement of the century. When he walked into an Army recruiting office in 2004 and signed up to pursue membership in the elite Green Berets, he was already a professional MMA fighter on his way up the charts with a 5-1 record.

Though he did manage to continue his fighting career while also being an active duty Soldier, becoming a Green Beret, especially one as accomplished as SSG Kennedy, was no simple matter. It required 100 percent commitment from Basic Combat Training through multiple overseas deployments. In between were Advanced Individual Training, Special Forces Assessment and Selection, Special Forces Qualifying Course, Airborne and Ranger training, and Special Forces Sniper School.

You can see how this might cause some schedule conflicts with a professional sports career. In fact, in 2004, 2005, and 2008, SSG Kennedy had no professional bouts, though he did win the Army-wide Combatives tournament in the Light-Heavyweight division each year from 2005 to 2007.

“I was always fighting for time,” he said. “There was never enough time to train, to fight, and to be a Soldier. After I enlisted, I just didn’t have time to fight as much as I wanted to.”

But there was no way he was giving up the uniform.

“Being in a Special Forces unit is so much more important than yourself,” SSG Kennedy said. “It’s eye-opening and humbling. Whatever you’re doing is irrelevant unless you’re doing it for the team. It’s about self-sacrifice and selfless service. If you can give yourself over to that, you’ll experience some of the most marvelous and spectacular things.”

After five years on active duty, SSG Kennedy found a solution in the Texas Army National Guard, which allowed him the time to become a full-time MMA fighter while continuing his Special Forces career.

“The Guard was absolutely the best option for me to do the two things I love: to fight and continue being a Soldier,” SSG Kennedy said. “It was a dream come true.”

On July 14, 2012, SSG Kennedy fought a tough bout in Portland for the Strikeforce middleweight belt. He lost a close decision, but he’s not willing to concede defeat so easily.

“The characteristics it takes to be a successful Soldier are the same characteristics required to be a successful fighter. They complement each other. It’s all about hard work, discipline, and personal sacrifice.”

In short, Soldiers and fighters never give up.

“My story is only half a story so far,” SSG Kennedy said. “I still have more things I have to do. I want to be ranked number 1. I’ve been close a couple times, but I haven’t made it yet.”

Operative term: yet.

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