The Only Enlisted Aide in Okinawa
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa, Japan – As the sun rises over Plaza Housing in Okinawa, Japan, Staff Sgt. Jeffrey D. Matthews carries bags of food through the side gate of Quarters One, the house of the III Marine Expeditionary Force commanding general.
Matthews, a Marine Corps enlisted aide, grew up in Baltimore and gained a passion for food service after working at a small Italian restaurant called Chiapparelli’s in high school.
As an aide Matthews prepares meals, plans social events, records finances, and accomplish tasks that aid III MEF commanding general, Lt. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson, in his official duties.
“When we have official visits, Staff Sgt. Matthews is responsible for the entertainment, for the food, and to ensure whoever visits this house has a good experience that is representative of III MEF and the United States Marine Corps,” Nicholson said.
To get into the program, one must be a food service specialist, hold the minimum rank of corporal, reenlist, and go through an extensive security screening.
“There is a lot that goes into bringing someone into the program,” said Matthews. “Even if you do get accepted, you still have a level of education you are supposed to get at follow-on schools.”
Getting into the program can be challenging, but if a person wants something enough, they will sacrifice the time to get what they want, said Matthews.
Matthews has been the only enlisted aide in Okinawa for approximately a year and a half. He has hosted dinners for high-profile individuals and general officers, including the commandant of the Korean Marine Corps.
“I have done dinners for 24 people and turned around and done a breakfast for eight the next morning,” said Matthews. “It’s not an everyday thing, but it’s the challenge that keeps me wanting to do it.”
Matthews is Nicholson’s first experience with a Marine Corps enlisted aide. “Staff Sgt. Matthews is focused, energized, and accomplished. He is a chef, he brings great culinary skills, great energy and great passion,” said Nicholson. “We are extremely fortunate to have him running this household.”