Become an Armed Forces Chef: Education and Career Roadmap

Not only will becoming an Armed Forces chef allow you to serve your country, but you will learn skills that will help you in civilian life as well. Read on to learn about the training requirements that you will need to start a career as an Armed Forces chef.

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Should I Become an Armed Forces Chef?

Armed Forces chefs serve in the U.S. military by preparing food according to military-approved recipes and serving it both in the field and at garrisons. They are also responsible for maintaining and cleaning equipment in military kitchens.

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Career Requirements

Requirements Enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces and pass aptitude test for specialization
Training Attend Basic Military Food Service Training School
Key Skills Interest in cooking, healthiness, or home economics
Salary (2012) $42,480 (median salary for all chefs and head cooks)

Sources: GoArmy.com, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Enlist in the Military

To become a military chef, one must first join the enlisted ranks of the U.S. Armed Forces. During the enlistment process, the military will determine suitability for specific training. This classification is called the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) in the U.S. Army and Marines. Other branches use the Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC), Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) and the Coast Guard rating system.

Those wishing to become chefs should speak with their enlistment officer to try to determine the best initial steps. Applicants for enlistment are required to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), which will help determine a future MOS.

Step 2: Attend Basic Military Food Service Training School

After completing boot camp, enlisted personnel report to an Advanced Individual Training school specific to their MOS rating. The Joint Culinary Center of Excellence (JCCoE) works with the U.S. Army Quartermaster School (QMS) and trains over 6,500 military cooks each year; the bulk of them are trained in Basic Military Food Service Training School.

Students in Basic Military Food Service Training School learn basic cooking and baking techniques, as well as garrison and field operations. Instruction involves both classroom and hands-on practice portions. Testing includes hands-on and written sections and qualifies students to enter their MOS.

Step 3: Gain Experience in the Kitchen and the Field

On becoming a military cook, personnel will be deployed and join regular military life. Food service is considered part of quartermaster support operations and logistics. In time and with promotion, a cook's responsibilities grow, from working in a kitchen to overseeing one. Levels of responsibility in the military are equated with rank and should provide a clear path for career growth.

Step 4: Attend the Army's Advanced Culinary Skills Training Course

The JCCoE not only trains new military cooks but also offers advanced culinary training through the Army's Advanced Culinary Skills Training Course (ACSTC). Generally, only enlisted soldiers of sergeant or higher rank, as well as warrant officers, are permitted to pursue this course. For the best military cooks, this program offers an opportunity to learn advanced techniques in menu planning and evaluation, gourmet food preparation and meal service.

Job Prospects and Salary Information

Being a chef in the military can also teach you skills that can be transferred to civilian life if you leave the service. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that, as of May 2012, there were 97,370 chef and head cook positions available in the United States. The BLS also reports that, as of May 2012, the median annual pay for chefs and head cooks was $42,480.

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