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NCO’s Guacamole Boosts Troop Morale

Compliments of:

U.S. Air Forces Central

 

La conversacion es la comida del alma: “Conversation is food for the soul.” But what better way to start conversation than with food?

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force Master Sgt. John P. Garcia Jr., Air Forces Central Command vehicle fleet manager, and Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mishal Crane, Combined Air and Space Operations Center noncommissioned officer in charge of commander support staff, prepare ingredients for guacamole at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia on May 3, 2013. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rachelle Elsea
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Master Sgt. John P. Garcia Jr., Air Forces Central Command vehicle fleet manager, is a native of Los Angeles currently on his eighth trip to this side of the world. And on each trip, he has made it his mission to bring a little bit of home to his fellow airmen.

“Over the years, I have learned to use my talent in the culinary world to teach others about my Mexican culture, while enjoying some authentic and sometimes secret recipes,” Garcia said. “The conclusion is always the same; it pulls all of us together, as kind of an ice breaker, which ultimately increases morale.”

Garcia’s signature dish, guacamole, originated in the 16th century with the Aztecs, and since then it has been passed down through generations, each adding their own touch and flavor. When Garcia and his wife, Jenny, both rich in Mexican heritage, married seven years ago, it was no different with their family.

“The current recipe is a combination of my wife’s family secrets and ours,” Garcia said. “As for my mastering the art, I owe it all to Mom and Grandma Rosie, teaching me as a young bachelor how to represent.”

Although Garcia has been making the dish for years, he acknowledged it is not without its challenges.

Finding the ingredients can be tricky, since grocery stores are not readily available in deployed locations.

“The first time I make guacamole at a new base, it is sometimes a struggle to find everything I need,” Garcia said. “But, after the airmen taste it for the first time, the avocados start showing up on my desk. With a little networking, and the excitement of a traditional Mexican dish, there is always enough motivation to find a way to pull it all together.”

But that isn’t his only trick.

“Worst case scenario, if there is any ingredient that cannot be found in country, I’ll grow it,” he said. “I have a jalapeno plant growing now, and should have some nice and spicy chili by the end of May.”

Garcia said the first time he grew jalapenos was in 1993 at a Mideast location, and he’s been growing them ever since.

“There is nothing like the freshest ingredients,” he added.

Once all the materials are assembled, the only obstacle is finding the time.

“Most Mexican recipes are very simple, but take a while,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Jordi Sancho, AFCENT transportation manager, who sometimes helps Garcia with his signature dish.

Over the course of the past few months, Garcia has enlisted several airmen in addition to Sancho to help him make the dish. This, in turn, cuts down on the production time.

“At first, most see it as a chance to break up the monotony, but after the second or third time they begin to get involved and some even take over,” Garcia said. “This brings peace to me, knowing something so simple makes such a big difference for so many folks. There has been multiple times where the tradition continues even after I’m long gone.”

His deployment to the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, was one of them and it seems this assignment will be too.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mishal Crane, Combined Air and Space Operations Center noncommissioned officer in charge of commander support staff, is another helper and said she plans to use the recipe in deployments to come.

“It reminds me a lot of home,” said Crane, who grew up in the same neighborhood as Garcia, and is of Hispanic descent. “If the ingredients are available, I will most definitely be carrying on this tradition.”

Garcia said his recipe, containing one secret step, is only passed on to those who are willing to work alongside him and learn.

But whether the recipe and tradition are passed down or not, he said, just seeing the smiling faces of airmen enjoying his guacamole is all that matters.

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About Edited by Susan Bainbridge

At age 6, Susan was destined to be a journalist and photographer.  In 1980, Susan founded Bainbridge News and The Bainbridge Chronicle Newspaper. Bainbridge News specializes in Military and National Politics, including Military Funerals and Burials and Political Funerals and Burials.  Susan has covered the White House, the Pentagon and Capitol Hill. She has covered every president from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama. Recognized for her versatility, Susan has also covered finance, crime, civil rights events, marches, sports, musical events and more. In 1990, she established Bainbridge Photography, an On-Location photography company. In addition to military and political events, including Military and Political funerals and burials, Bainbridge Photography expanded into covering ALL funerals and burials, receptions, weddings, real estate, inventory, insurance, portrait, head shot, pets, fire and Hazmat.  Miss Bainbridge believes in going the extra mile. "My Clients always come first." In 1980, Susan began her career in Washington, D.C., working for WMZQ Radio as a reporter and guest hostess from 1980 to 1985. Intrigued by radio, Susan wanted to write, freelancing for radio, television and print newspapers, including AP, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Northern Virginia Sun, The Press-Republican and The Bainbridge Chronicle (established by Susan Bainbridge). In 1986, Susan worked at WDCA-TV Channel 20 as a guest hostess for "Eye On Washington." From 1990 to 1994, Susan reported and anchored for "The Arlington Weekly News." Additionally, she produced a segment for the G. Gordon Liddy Radio Show. A prolific writer, while in high school in 1977, Bainbridge wrote an episode for NBC's "Little House on The Prairie" entitled "Laura's Best Friend." Though the show's producers did not use the script then, NBC producers encouraged Susan to pursue a writing and journalism career. Susan is a member of the National Press Club, the National Press Photographer's Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. Susan Bainbridge's recognitions include from former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton, former First Lady Nancy Reagan, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the late actor Lorne Greene, among many others. BAINBRIDGE NEWS was founded in 1980 by Susan Bainbridge (a sixth generation writer), a third generation journalist, a first generation photographer and a fourth generation entrepreneur. She is the first generation to establish a news business. Bainbridge News is dedicated in honor of Miss Bainbridge's late grandfather and idol, Mark S. Watson (The Baltimore Sun editor and war correspondent from 1920 to his death in 1966).

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