By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mark Wyatt
Joint Force Headquarters, New Hampshire National Guard
SONSONATE, El Salvador, April 8, 2013 – Army Sgt. 1st Class Edward Haggett loves to feed troops, whether it’s in Iraq, New Hampshire, or on a mountainside here overlooking a beautiful city, where he can see the sun rise on his mobile kitchen every morning and watch it set every night.
“I love it when they come through the MKT and see smiles on their face just after they finished working their tail off on a job,” the Joint Task Force Jaguar food services noncommissioned officer said. “They’re smiling because they’re looking forward to a good, hot meal. I love being the one who provides it to them.”
Haggett and other soldiers are here as part of a select joint task force that will carry out Beyond the Horizon El Salvador, a humanitarian exercise that began in late March and will run through late June.
Army Lt. Col. Raymond Valas, the task force commander, said Haggett was the first person who came to mind when he and Army Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Speltz began selecting their team.
“I served with him in Iraq and saw firsthand how serious he takes feeding soldiers,” Valas said of the 23-year food service veteran.
Valas and Haggett served in Iraq with Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry. Haggett said that’s when he began to appreciate his role in the fight.
“I went into a staff meeting in Iraq with the command sergeant major, who was talking about how much respect he had for soldiers who went outside the wire on missions,” he said. So after the meeting, he added, he approached the sergeant major and asked if he could provide a cookout meal from time to time for the 180 soldiers who went out on patrol every day.
The command sergeant major replied, “Sergeant Haggett, you bring me that memo once a month, and I will sign it,” Haggett said.
For the soldiers, knowing what awaited them when they returned made their work a little easier.
“It was a little piece of home for those of us that went outside [the wire] each day,” said Army Staff Sgt. Derek Downey, Joint Task Force Jaguar medical plans noncommissioned officer in charge. “Sergeant 1st Class Haggett cares very much about what he does, and it shows by the effort he puts into it.”
Haggett said his “best memory in the military” happened on the same deployment to Iraq.
“I was able to go to a school in Iraq and have an opportunity to play the harmonica for Iraqi children,” he said. “The kids were amazed by it, and surrounded me wanting to hear more.”
Later that, he said, he told the commander he would try to have 30 harmonicas donated and asked if could he go back and give them to the children at the school.
“After I had the harmonicas, I went back to the same school and taught the kids how to play it,” Haggett said. “I then gave them to each of the kids to keep. They were thrilled.”
Haggett said it’s that same spirit that drives him to be the best food service soldier he can be.
“When you do something and people reward you with a thank you, it’s all I need to know they appreciate the effort I put in,” he said.