Spc. Talawna Russell

Unit: 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery, Fort Stewart, Ga. Russell is a competitor in the 45th annual Joint Culinary Training Exercise.

Military occupational specialty: 92G – culinary specialist

Hometown: San Diego

Age: 23

Time in service: 22 months

Pet peeve: “I hate being asked questions someone already knows the answers to.”

Favorite saying: “I kind of like ‘Live life to the fullest.’”

Dream car: “A Tesla.”

Greatest fear: “Dying and leaving my son.”

Favorite food: “Hot wings and hot chips.”

Personality strengths: “People tell me I’m not approachable, but once they get to know me, they find out I’m really a nice person. I’m very loving to those I’m close to; and always there to help others.”

Personality weaknesses: “I’m really not like a people person; I’m kind of an introvert.”

When and where you were the happiest: “When I had my son. I felt I brought my own life into the world. It’s something I didn’t imagine myself doing so young.”

Your favorite celebrity: “Right now, it’s (rising rapper) Rod Wave. He makes a lot of music I can relate to. I like how he struggled when he was younger and basically made it on his own. He’s getting to where he wants to be. That’s my story as well.”

Talk about your childhood: “Both of my parents were involved in raising me. There wasn’t anything negative, honestly. They always managed to send us (Russell has a younger brother and sister) to the best schools, and we never lived in bad neighborhoods or anything like that. I wouldn’t say we were spoiled, but we got everything we needed (laugh). It was a great household to be raised in, and I wouldn’t change anything.”

One person you admire: “I really admire my mom. She’s given up so much and given us everything we asked for. Sometimes you don’t appreciate what your mom does growing up, but I really appreciate what my mom – both of my parents, actually – did for us because I know it’s not always easy to give children what they need and want.”

This is your first time competing in JCTE; describe what the opportunity means to you: “It’s given me the opportunity to see a different side of cooking. In the DFAC, it’s pretty basic and you do the same thing over and over again. With this, it’s more intricate. For instance, I never would’ve known what a tourne cut is unless I had prepared for this event. This is my first time here, and I’m excited to see what I can gain.”

Why you joined the Army: “To better provide for my son. I had a job, but I felt like it wouldn’t be enough to provide for him. Also, I kind of wanted to be on my own to experience the travel. I thought the military would be a good idea, so I gave it a try. I like where I am.”

What it means to wear the uniform: “I’m actually honored to wear the uniform. It gives you a new look at life, basically. At any moment, something can go wrong. I feel like you need to take every day and be thankful you are living. Some days are harder than others, but I feel like it is very doable. I really like being in the military, honestly.”

Why you chose your MOS: “I wanted learn how to cook different things. I wanted a deeper knowledge of what I could do with simple dishes.”

What you expect out of leaders: “I expect them to push us to where we need to be, even when we don’t want the push.”

What you expect out of your peers: “Honestly, I expect the same. I expect all of us to push each other to where we need to be.”

Best thing about the Army: “Travel and the fact that sometimes you get to choose where you want to go.”

Worst thing about the Army: “The hours or the fact they can call you (in for duty) whenever they want.”

Where you see yourself in five years: “I hope to be a staff sergeant, an enlisted aide and living comfortably.”