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Stafford County resident Garrett Camacho carries on a family tradition and a lifetime fondness of the kitchen as a combat cook
Lance Cpl. Garrett Camacho cooks steaks on a makeshift grill. He was inspired by family members in the military and a passion for cooking.
PHOTOS BY CPL. ALFRED V. LOPEZ
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By CATHY DYSON
Garrett Camacho knew exactly what he wanted to do in the Marine Corps.
He told a recruiter he'd like to be a combat cook. The recruiter asked him to repeat that--to be sure he heard him right--then told Camacho to put it in writing because his gunnery sergeant would never believe it.
The Stafford County resident, who graduated from Mountain View High School in 2010, had his reasons for wanting to be a mess cook.
He grew up surrounded by the two things the specialty entailed: a love of culinary arts and military service.
He watched the men in his family grill and make special sauces. Every summer, when he visited his Grandma Camacho in Texas, he took in the smells that came from her kitchen and the taste of her signature tamales.
As a teenager, he watched his uncle, Jesse Camacho of Stafford, put together dinners for high-ranking Marines and politicians.
He wanted to do the same and to pay homage to those in his family who served as sailors or Marines.
The 19-year-old got his wish.
Camacho is a lance corporal, currently deployed to Afghanistan. He's in the Khan-Neshin district of the Helmand province, where he's a food service specialist.
He cooks two hot meals a day for Marines with the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.
"I get to show everyone what cooks do," Camacho said recently in a story by the Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System. "They get to see how much work goes into preparing the food."
Camacho said in an email that he'd love to try some family recipes, like his grandmother's tamales, but doesn't have the right ingredients on hand.
So, he makes do with what he has, even if it means serving "veal cheddar" because he ran out of parmesan cheese.
He said the 150 Marines he cooks for aren't so fond of his meat loaf, but they love his steak and jambalaya.
"I had some guys one time just look at me and straight up said, 'I love you, cookie,'" he wrote in an email.
His uncle says Camacho is making a difference in the lives of Marines, who are putting in long hours on dangerous duty.