ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — After the Maidan Shar police district in Afghanistan came through U.S. military training with the highest rating, now-retired Army Lt. Col. Jeff Camp, a Queensbury native, called for a celebration and barbecue.
“We asked the Afghan officers what they would like for the barbecue. I offered beef, chicken or lamb, but all were met with a ‘no’,” Camp said. “What else is there? Surely not pork?”
An Afghan police lieutenant responded.
“We would like goat.”
Camp wondered. Where am I going to get goat? How many goats will I need? How much will they cost?
“I turned to my interpreter, a local Afghan, he thought for a moment and said, ‘Sir, you will need four goats to feed all of them,’ ” Camp said, partially laughing while sharing the tale.
The interpreter continued. “I can bring them from Kabul (60 miles away) and they will cost $25 USD each.”
“From Kabul, how are you going to get them to us?”
“I will bring them in the taxi,” the interpreter said.
And so goes the goat tale that Camp said was hilarious, especially when the goats arrived and jumped out of the taxi.
“I remember it so vividly, we laughed so hard,” said the Bronze Star decorated veteran who led the 33rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan during his 32-year military career. “Soldiers are soldiers; we found a way to have a good time.”
Camp, 52, who graduated in 1983 from Queensbury High School and played outside linebacker for the 1982 Foothills Council champion, the Queensbury Spartans, wrote down the goat story at the urging of friends. One story led to two, and in three weeks he had a pile of zany tales from his decades of military service.
Still, he didn’t really have enough for a book.
Along with his stories, Camp had a budding inventory of inventive recipes created after years of cooking, experimenting and several cooking classes with international chefs, like Chef Luca at Hotel Borgo di Cortefreda, Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, Tuscany.
So he combined the stories and recipes into a memoir-cookbook — “Is Goat Beef?” — that offers an intimate look at the bonds developed in the midst of sometimes difficult times.
“The stories in this book are about camaraderie, shared misery and the love shared by brothers-in-arms,” Camp says in the book.
And such life anecdotes “connect and ground the recipes to the author’s history on the front lines,” according to Kirkus Indie Reviews.
“Camp’s adventures in basic training inspire appetizers like flavorful Roasted Corn Salad and a temptingly easy potato salad with dill and stone ground mustard. A hilarious misadventure with dog food somehow dictates a tempting recipe for Italian Polpette,” the reviewer writes. “Camp’s time in Poland is reflected in a slow-cooked recipe for Bigos Stew … A closing section … peaks with a standout concoction for Camp’s grandfather’s Top-Secret Manhattan, a pitcher of which the elder drank almost every evening.”
After his 1983 graduation, several of Camp’s buddies were signing up with the Queensbury Army recruiter and Camp signed up, too.
“A bunch of kids talked me into it,” he said, adding that at the time he had no direction or idea of what he was going to do with his life.
“It gave me structure and showed me a thousand different ways to earn a living that I did not want to do,” he said from his home in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. “It allowed me to grow up and know the value of an education.”
Camp enlisted in the military as a private and retired as a lieutenant colonel; he completed the U.S. Army War College with a master’s in strategic studies. And he earned a Bronze Star during each of his combat deployments.
In his early years, Camp was deployed to Honduras during the Reagan era. “I had no idea what was going on, I was a 19-year-old private,” he said. “I didn’t even know where Honduras was on the map. We just thought we were on some cool mission.”
And the crazy tales, like the ones he shares in his book, are the ones he wants to remember. “I will forget the misery,” he said. “But I will always remember the goat story.”
In addition to his military history, Camp is the director of Systems Group Storage, Middle East & Africa, for IBM and has been working for the technology giant for about 20 years.
Camp has been coming up with recipes most of his life. Growing up, his mother worked the 3 to 11 shift as a nurse at Glens Falls Hospital and she would say to Camp and his siblings, “put the oven on 350 degrees and cook this chicken.”
“I thought, ‘I wish we had fried chicken,’ and I started cooking; it was an easy thing,” he said.
In recent years, Camp and wife Mari-Ann Kucharek, who did all the photography and editing for the book, went to a Thai cooking school and learned more about cooking in Tuscany.
Camp credits all the cooking influences in his life, including his mother and grandmother and the teachings of professional chefs.
The book is dedicated to “all the Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Marines and Coasties, as well as to our fellow law enforcement and ﬁreﬁghters … The call to service is only answered by a few, but it impacts many. In this dedication, too, are the Gold Star Families of all our fallen comrades. May you ﬁnd some peace and humor in knowing that we all love what we do, did, and will do in the future.”
One dollar from each book sold will be donated to the charity Paws for Purple Hearts, which gets dog-assisted therapy to veterans and active-duty military personnel with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, mobility issues, chronic pain, depression and military sexual trauma.
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