International Food Service Executives Association
Editor's Note: These answers have been provided by Chief Master Sgt. William Garner, who is the Chairman of the Board of the Military Hospitality Alliance, a subsidiary of IFSEA. He is the Services Chief for the Air Education and Training Center, based in San Antonio, TX.
What are the most challenging aspects of a career in military foodservice?
Any military job provides a fast track to managing personnel. At a very young age, shortly after entry into the military, junior personnel get a chance to lead teams of people to complete projects or in their regular job. Funds are limited, equipment and supplies may be scarce, but culinary skills are always put to good use.
What about it do you find most rewarding?
Helping young people to succeed is what every NCO lives to do. At some point in our careers we are judged not on what we are doing, but rather on what our people are doing—how much training they got, how many awards and promotions they received, how their own careers advance.
What are some typical jobs available to those interested in the field?
Once an individual has completed basic cook school, he or she starts in the kitchen: cooking, cleaning, serving, storing. They tend to rotate to different positions: there are bakers, cooks, supply specialists, trainers—the same types of jobs you have in the civilian world. Within three to four years, personnel often hold substantial leadership positions.
Also, keep in mind that the image of the military "mess hall" can be very misleading. Military clubs offer every sort of fine dining; other operations can be very similar to food courts like you would find in a commercial or college environment.
What are compensation levels like? What about benefits?
Entry level pays about $20,000 and senior enlisted personnel earn in excess of $60,000.
There is nothing better than the military in terms of benefits. A 20-year retirement, health care for life after you retire, 30 days of vacation a year starting right away, subsidized housing.
Substantial education benefits both in and outside the mlitary are afforded to personnel. GI Bill benefits may also be available.
What would a culinary graduate or chef like about working in this field?
The ability to teach so many other people. Serving one's country while at the same time developing one's skills. The chance to work alongside so many outstanding and dedicated people.
What would someone interested in a management career like about working in this field?
What a military career does best is prepare people for leadership positions in the civilian world. The opportunity exists to manage hundreds and even thousands of people.
Does IFSEA have any programs available to help those interested in the field learn about internships and job opportunities?
IFSEA has connections with key people in every service, at all ranks, to provide advice to students as to programs that may be available to them. Depending on individual interests, IFSEA can provide specific guidance to put you in touch with exactly the right people in all of the services.
How can I find out more?
Contact IFSEA Headquarters at 800-824-3732 or browse our Web site at www.ifsea.org