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An aide for all seasons.

PREPARING a gourmet meal of Beef Wellington, Alaskan King Crab, garlic pure6 potatoes, bacon-wrapped asparagus, a seasonal fruit salad with raspberry and poppy seed dressing and a molten lava cake is something Sgt. 1st Class Andre Rush--the senior enlisted aide to the U.S. Military Academy superintendent, Lt. Gen. Buster Hagenbeck--could virtually do in his sleep, he said.

"I learned to cook by watching and helping my mom," Sgt. 1st Class Rush said. "As a country boy growing up in Mississippi, I wasn't exactly what you would call a gourmet cook, but I could make southern food taste good. Now, not only can I make it taste good, but I can make it look pretty good as well."

While he's become quite the established chef, preparing extravagant meals was neither his first love nor his first choice when he decided to enter the Army.

"I wanted to be a combat graphic artist. However, that career field was unavailable at the time I enlisted, so I made my second choice my first. Luckily for me, that was definitely the right decision," he added.

"I was a young cook, working in a field dining environment at Fort Stewart, Ga.," Sgt. 1st Class Rush said. "One day, my dining facility manager came out of his office and asked if anyone had any ice-carving experience. I had never done anything even remotely close to ice carving, but I somehow knew that was going to be my opportunity to shine. So, I volunteered."

It appeared to be a good idea at the time, he said. There was just one, small problem; he had never carved a statue from a piece of ice before. And he'd never before used a chain saw--something he had to learn quickly to complete the carving.

Despite his lack of chain-saw experience, Sgt. 1st Class Rush finished carving a bald eagle about an hour and a half after he'd started the project.

He's now considered to be the Army's premier ice sculptor, but that's only one of his talents, he said.

"I've covered a great deal of ground since that ice-carving incident," he said. "I've been extremely lucky career-wise. I've met presidents of the United States and worked as an executive chef to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretary of the Army.

"But coming to the U.S. Military Academy to serve as the senior enlisted aide to Lt. Gen. and Mrs. Judy Hagenbeck has been one of the most rewarding parts of my career thus far," Sgt. 1st Class Rush said.

"Working here is quite a challenge," he said of duty at the superintendent's 16,000-square-foot West Point home. "They entertain guests frequently. As a result, this place is always hopping.

"You have to be prepared for just about anything. Fortunately for me, I don't have to prepare for the guests alone," he said. Staff Sgt. Kalena Kraft, another enlisted aide, and I run a tight ship. We plan continuously to stay ahead of the game."

The Hagenbecks find Sgt. 1st Class Rush's talents indispensable.

"He's a very talented and gifted individual," Mrs. Hagenbeck said.

"We're extremely fortunate to have him on our team.

"Overseeing the quarters of the USMA superintendent is a huge responsibility, and he does it seamlessly," she added.

"Not only is Sgt. 1st Class Rush a very accomplished chef and artist, but his organization and people skills are impeccable," Mrs. Hagenbeck said.

Sgt. 1st Class Roger Jones is the NCOIC of the USMA Public Affairs Office.
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Author:Jones, Roger
Publication:Soldiers Magazine
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2007
Words:585
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