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03-18-05, 01:29 PM #1
Feeding the masses: Bronx native has a lot on his plate
If everyone knew what he did, Sgt. Oneal A. Paguada would be one of the most popular Marines here.
Without the New York native's hard work every day, many Marines, sailors, soldiers, airmen and civilian contractors would have to miss out on the sustenance our bodies thrive on.
Paguada serves as the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) food service operations manager, and spends his days crunching numbers, tracking supplies and overseeing the preparation and service of up to 35,000 hot meals a day.
"I have always loved a good challenge," the 27-year-old Bronx native said. "I knew this deployment was going to be tough, but so far, we have overcome all the challenges we have faced."
Before his days as a Marine food service specialist, Paguada was working construction and maintenance jobs in the Bronx. He graduated from Dewitt Clinton High School in 1996, but decided to serve his country and secure a better future for himself and his parents and siblings. "It was dangerous, every day you had to watch your back," Paguada said about life in the Bronx. "I had to do something to get away and keep myself out of trouble."
In May of 1999 he left the streets of New York and headed to Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., for basic training. Although he was miles away from his home, Paguada said he quickly learned, that like his family back in New York, the Marine Corps thrived on close personal relationships.
That bond motivated Paguada to stay in the Marine Corps after his first four year enlistment, which he spent at 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, MCRD Parris Island and Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Okinawa, Japan.
"Marines live, work and play as a family," he said. "There's a close, family-like environment that is just like back home. That environment has helped me grow and develop into a responsible man."
Arriving at his present duty station, Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, N.C., in January of 2004, Paguada began learning other aspects of his job field. Instead of preparing food, he began managing budgets, tracking supplies and handling the managing food services for the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.
"This aspect of the job is a lot more complicated," Paguada said. "You have to sweat the small stuff, because overlooking a small detail could mean someone doesn't get to eat."
After establishing himself in food service, Paguada decided to take on a new challenge and volunteered to deploy to Iraq with Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 2.
"He is a hard working, common sense kind of Marine," said Master Gunnery Sgt. Robert J. Massey Jr., 2nd MAW (Fwd) food service supervisor. "He looks at every situation, makes a quick assessment of what needs to happen and then goes about the business of getting it done."
Due to the fact that the dining facilities here are staffed mostly by third-country nationals from India, Jordan, Sri Lanka and other Asian countries, Paguada found himself in a supervisory roll, as he works with the civilian workers.
"They are extremely hard workers, and eager to provide the best service they can," he said. "At first, I thought language and culture would be a barrier, but our differences in background are not an issue. We have a great working relationship and even are becoming closer in personal relationships."
Paguada said he feels there is a common trait between him and the food service civilians, they both were looking to stake a better claim for their futures and to help their families.
"They are looking for a better life, just like I was when I joined the Marine Corps," he said.
Having found his place in the Marine Corps, Paguada said he is looking forward to giving back as he goes through his career. When he finishes this deployment, he plans to explore opportunities in the Marine Security Guard program or the possibility of serving as a drill instructor, training Marine recruits.
"The Corps has given so much to me, I want to give back," Paguada said. "I want to share the knowledge and life-changing experiences that I have received."
Until then, Paguada said he is happy just doing his part here in Iraq.
"Since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I've wanted to come here and do something to make an impact," he said. "I know that what we are doing over here is going to better this country. Everyone is here for a reason; to do something special for the Iraqi people."
All Marine! All The Time!
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