USARAF Soldier Earns Army Enlisted Aide of the Year

U.S. Army Africa - Italy

“When I was younger, my siblings would tell me that I made the best ramen noodles and Kool-Aid,” said Arroyo. “Ever since then, I’ve always wanted to be a chef.” He continued to develop his culinary skills by cooking for his family while growing up in St. James, Minnesota. This passion for cooking is what drew him to enlist in the Minnesota Army National Guard and subsequently in the U.S. Army as a culinary specialist. “I’ve known my whole life that I’m meant to be a chef,” he said. “The passion has always been there.” Having served in various capacities around the world as a cook for the Army, Arroyo wanted to develop and challenge himself in a different way. “I have very high goals for my career,” he said. “I wanted to flex my culinary muscles and gain a deeper understanding for higher end cuisine.” As a staff sergeant 12 years into his Army career, he was selected to be the enlisted aide for the commanding general of U.S. Army Africa in Vicenza, Italy. The Army enlisted aide community is small and select. According to DOD Instruction 1315.09, there are 81 authorized EA positions in the entire service, and their purpose is to relieve the general of the tasks and details which, if performed by the general, would prove to be at the expense of the his or her primary military and other official duties and responsibilities. Preparing food is just one of an EA’s many responsibilities. “We are the household manager,” said Sgt. 1st Class Russel Sauers, an instructor at the Joint Culinary Training Center. “We oversee duties and responsibilities, not only in the daily aspects of the food requirements for the general officer and spouse or family, but also we are responsible for uniforms, planning, procurement and execution of a dinner party, and we are also the point of contact for the general’s official quarters.” Once accepted into the program, Arroyo initially served as an interim EA for the 82nd Airborne Division commander. He competed against other EAs to be Maj. Gen. Joseph Harrington’s EA, and he officially started June 2016. During the selection process, commanders are provided a packet for each candidate, which is used to conduct interviews. “There were about 12 [EA candidates] in the book, and the staff had put them in order and he was number one,” said Harrington, the U.S. Army Africa commanding general. “I spoke to Staff Sgt. Arroyo when I was in Heathrow airport and he was in Stuttgart in the middle of cooking a meal at the mess hall, but he grabbed the phone … and he was great. I hired him and it’s been a great choice.” While serving as an EA already puts him in elite company, Arroyo hopes it will also provide opportunities to achieve some of the goals he has set for the future. “Being an EA is a crucial part of the (culinary specialist) career path,” he said. “There are many executive dining facilities throughout the military, and being an EA helps with the selection for those positions.” For Arroyo, preparing for the future is not the only reason for doing his best in his current role. “(Being an enlisted aide) ties into the values of my mother and of the military; (both) instilled a hard work ethic in me,” he said. EAs have to be detailed-oriented in taking care of the official things needed to care for the general and his family. Harrington appreciates all the things Arroyo does that allow him focus on his USARAF duties. “He takes a burden off me that I would otherwise have, which allows me to spend more time with the rest of the command, not only learning about Africa, but also influencing how we go about doing our business in Africa,” Harrington said. “That’s the purpose of the program -- create space to allow the commander to be more successful for the command.” A few months into the current assignment, Arroyo reflected on advice from one of his past first sergeants: Wherever the Army places you, prove your worth in that field or unit. “I took his advice and I approached Major General Harrington about the (Enlisted Aide of the Year Competition),” Arroyo said. “I’m an EA. I need to prove my mettle against the best.” The EAOTYC is an annual competition held at Fort Lee, Va., to showcase and reward the top enlisted aides in the Army. The first 12 complete packets are selected to compete in four phases over two days. The timed phases consist of a written exam, leadership board, uniform assembly challenge and hot food challenge. The winner of the event represents the Army in corresponding DOD enlisted aide competitions for the following year. “I studied for the board, exam and uniform rigging whenever I had a chance,” Arroyo said. As an instructor at the JCTC, Sauers was present for the EAOTYC. “He was very personable but very professional,” Sauers said. “He performed very well on all four events, pretty consistent across the board.” Arroyo ultimately triumphed in competition against six of his EA peers, earn the Enlisted Aide of the Year title for 2017. “I already knew I had the best aide in the Army beforehand, so that just validated my assumption of him,” Harrington said. “We are very proud of him. We are very happy for him and he’s a man that has serious goals.”

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