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Celebrating Years of Service - at USDA and as Military Veterans

From left to right: Jeffery Ishmael, a 20-year U.S. Army veteran; Joseph Hastings, served with the U.S. Army Special Forces; Tracy Sulton, a member of the U.S. Navy in front of a CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter; Lauren Hilliker (right) with Col. Mike Malone served with the U.S. Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Reserve.

From left to right: Jeffery Ishmael, a 20-year U.S. Army veteran; Joseph Hastings, served with the U.S. Army Special Forces; Tracy Sulton, a member of the U.S. Navy in front of a CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter; Lauren Hilliker (right) with Col. Mike Malone served with the U.S. Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Reserve.

Each Veteran’s Day, the country takes a moment to recognize our troops for their commitment and dedication to the nation. The experiences of our veterans show how military service intersects with the mission of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) in unexpected ways. As we prepare for the holiday, AMS would like to thank all of our veterans for their service and their sacrifice and also highlight a few members of our staff willing to share their stories.

A 20 year veteran in the U.S. Army, Joseph Hastings earned a green beret as part of the elite U.S. Army Special Forces. In his time as Senior Engineer, he oversaw many Title X humanitarian projects.  While in Bangladesh, Joseph witnessed the devastation to the crops and food of its residents.  At the same time, he witnessed the crucial role the USDA plays in these types of disasters.  People who had lost their livelihood and means of subsistence were provided with MRE’s and grain.  When Joseph was offered a position in AMS, he quickly jumped at the opportunity to be a part of an organization that had such a significant impact in these devastated communities.

A connection to food also brought U.S. Army veteran Staff Sergeant Jeffrey Ishmael to AMS.  In his 20 year military career, Jeffrey inspected military food and conducted audits of food facilities on military establishments.  While deployed oversees, he graded fresh fruits and vegetables, beef, pork, poultry and shell eggs to make sure our troops received quality products.  Jeffrey uses these experiences in his current position in our Livestock, Poultry and Seed Grading Program.

James McCallister, a member of our Fruit and Vegetable Market News division, is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Army Reserve, and the Navy Reserve.   James dedicated more than 40 years serving his country in the military.  A veteran of the Korean, Vietnam, and Desert Storm wars, he was also honored with an Expeditionary Forces Medal for his service in the Belgium Congo Conflict in 1961.  His military career took James all over the world, allowing him to spend time in places like Germany, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

James started his market news career at AMS in 1980, eventually retiring in 1992.  After a brief retirement, his experience abroad made him a valuable asset when the agency sought to develop more international market news programs.  He still works with AMS as a relief market news reporter and has helped develop programs in Russia, Nigeria, and Serbia and Montenegro.

Tracy Sulton recently joined the agency in our public affairs office as a student intern.  Prior to coming to AMS, Tracy was an eight year veteran of the U.S. Navy.  As an operations specialist, he specialized in surface, air, and underwater warfare and ballistic missile defense.  He was deployed to Djibouti, where he served as the Command Training Specialist, briefing new soldiers entering the country and monitoring communications between several bases. In his position at AMS, Tracy uses his communications experience to expand the agency’s outreach efforts.

Another young veteran, Lauren Hilliker of our Fruit and Vegetable Program, served in both the U.S. Marine Corps and Marine Corps Reserve from 2003-2007. During her time in the Marine Corps, Lauren attended Marine Combat Training at Camp Geiger and Logistics Operations School at Camp Johnson.  Lauren traveled to Daegu, South Korea, to participate in Ulchi-Focus Lens (UFL), an intense crisis training exercise that evaluates how South Korea could respond to an attack from North Korea.

We are proud to have these veterans at AMS, and the thousands of others who choose civilian service at USDA.  Through our diverse collection of agencies that cover spanning from food safety to forestry, USDA offers many opportunities to our veterans.  You can learn more about the department’s commitment to hiring veterans by visiting the Veterans Employment Office (VEPO) website.  You can also check out the USDA Blog to learn more about how AMS helps veterans transition into civilian careers.

On this and every Veterans Day, we would like to thank all of our veterans for their dedication to protecting our county.

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