Soufflés to stripes
By Senior Airman Destani K. Matheny, 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 28, 2021
SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Airman 1st Class Mark Duryea, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment technician, began his love for cooking when he was a young boy scout, cooking meals over the fires he built.
Duryea took classes in high school that strengthened his passion. The summer after his sophomore year, he started a full-time position as a cook at a local country club. When summer ended, the club let go of all the other high school aged workers, but kept Duryea. He continued to work there for the rest of his high school career and continued to outshine his peers.
“I ended up going to one of the top culinary schools in the world,” said Duryea. “The Culinary Institute of America in New York was not for the faint of heart or the lazy. If you were late to class one time, the best you could hope to do in that class would be a 75%. That really reinforced characteristics that helped my transition into the military.”
Duryea spent a total of 19 years working as a professional chef before joining the Air Force. After so many years in the same career, some might feel comfortable just staying where they’re at. Duryea felt a calling to do something different.
“I have a twin brother, Jake, who I’ve looked up to my whole life,” said Duryea. “He joined the Air Force a few years ago and is now a Tech. Sgt. at Langley. He told me all the great things the Air Force has to offer and I knew then, this was my next step.”
Duryea didn’t want to continue cooking in the Air Force, but instead wanted a complete change. He wanted to work in maintenance, he wanted to work with his hands and feel directly connected to the Air Force mission.
“Duryea always has a positive attitude, no matter what,” Staff Sgt. Hunter Hawkins, 20th EMS aerospace ground equipment craftsman. “He creates morale everywhere he goes. He’s valuable to all of us not only through that, but also because of the life experiences and lessons that he brings with him.”
Looking towards the future, Duryea plans to continue his career in AGE and eventually wants to move to the same base as his brother to be able to be closer to family.
Joining the military can be one of the most valuable, yet frightening, decisions someone can make. The strength that is built through diversity, along with life experience and differences in upbringing and education, makes us stronger as a force, and is vital to keeping our mission flying.