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CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, AR RAMADI, Iraq -- Corporal Yaritza Vargas, a 21-year-old food services specialist with the 2nd Marine Division has been serving ground troops for the past three years with her specialty baking. Now, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Brooklyn, N.Y. native is learning the ropes again. Only this time, it's away from the kitchen stove. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Stephen D'Alessio (RELEASED)

Photo by Sgt. Stephen D'Alessio

Brooklyn, N.Y., native transitions baking pastries to baking in Iraq

20 Jun 2005 | Sgt. Stephen D'Alessio

When Cpl. Vargas joined the Marines, she asked for a job that required great attention to the details.  Well, the Corps gave it to her and now she’s proving her mettle.

Yaritza Vargas, a 21-year-old food services specialist with the 2nd Marine Division has been serving ground troops for the past three years with her specialty; baking.  Now, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, she is learning the ropes again.  Only this time, it’s away from the kitchen stove.

Vargas works in the mess hall here, serving thousands of troops and civilians for breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight rations for the late-night workers.  She does more than cooking, though.  This time around, she is part of an inspection team that ensures the cleanliness and proper handling of the food and civilian workers who are contracted to cook for the service members here.

“Even though I’m not baking, I get the chance to learn about the administrative side of the kitchen – shipping food here and regulating the food handling procedures,” said Vargas. 

Although the Brooklyn, N.Y. native is out of the kitchen, so to speak, the heat is still on.  In upwards of one hundred twenty degree heat, she’s feeling just what it’s like to be on the ground in the desert. 

She misses her hometown where she can enter a Bodega and buy specialty Hispanic food items.  But doing without is worth it to her because she’s serving her country.

“What I don’t like about this place is the heat,” said Vargas.  “But I won’t complain because we could always learn a lesson about doing without things we take for granted.

“I miss cooking, especially and I can’t get same ingredients to bake as I do back home.  When I was back at Camp Lejeune I used to make cinnamon buns, cakes and all kinds of pastries fresh every day.  The Marines really liked them.”

Vargas, a 2002 graduate of Norman Thomas High School in Manhattan, N.Y., is taking a break from cooking, but she hasn’t forgotten her passion.  That same passion for her job, she shares with her friends and family back home.  Now, she’s sharing it with the Marines as she tries to make their stay in this desert region more comfortable.

“I miss Spanish food,” said Vargas.  “I like to cook traditional Hispanic food like panadillas and patelles for my friends in New York.  I have one of my friends sending me an “I love N.Y.” tee-shirt.  It just makes me feel closer to home.”

In the meantime, Vargas is trying to vie for the All-Marine Softball Team.  Before she left the states to support the Global War on Terrorism, she was training for a spot. 

“When I came into the Marine Corps I took notice of all of the opportunities,” said Vargas.  “Being out here makes me realize that if I put my mind to it, I can really accomplish what I set out to do.”