Civilians try MREs

Actually, these aren’t *really* MREs. They’re civilian products mimicking MREs. The main entrée is pure MRE, but the rest is a cheaper variant.


MREs aren’t bad, per se. For a day or two, they’re not bad at all, especially now that they have the flameless ration heater. But after more than a few days, they become very monotonous. That’s part of why the Army puts so much effort into making hot meals, such as the UGR series, available to deployed troops.

Youtube being Youtube, there’s actually a small community of channels with people who do very indepth reviews of just about every combat ration around, both the various MRE menus, and their foreign counterparts.


Gschultz9 has over 23,000 subscribers!

Breakfast, Russian Style

I found this link over at the ONT.

A typical Russian Army breakfast in garrison.

That’s breakfast. Here you can see what looks like oats and a sausage. The small white drink is “milk” and the small spread is “butter”. The glass on the left is a glass of tea. The thing on the right is two slices of Russian bread.  

Follow the link to see other meals. Overall, it doesn’t look too bad. But by way of comparison, here’s a fairly typical garrison breakfast in the US Army.

I kinda prefer ours, but I’ll admit, the Russian meals looked better than I expected.

In an effort to bump up traffic, let’s talk Army Chow!

I can cook. I just can’t cook very well. I mean, it’s certainly edible, as long as we’re talking about making pork chops, or grilling a chicken breast. My primary concerns when cooking are ease of prep, speed, and ease of cleanup. I mean, I’m usually just cooking for one. And as a smoker, my taste buds went AWOL years ago.  And my cookbook may not be the best.

Some of my friends take their food just a little more seriously

And then there is Army chow. I’ve written several times about MREs and T-rats and other elements of the Army’s Field Feeding System. Most of the emphasis on the research being these field rations has been on food preservation technologies.  But there’s also a surprising amount of research on the nutritional side of the equation as well, extending back to the days of the Revolution, and ongoing even today.

Craig might find this long research paper on the diets of soldier’s in the Civil War interesting. (.pdf warning)

MRE’s with an international flavor

Big Dick (that’s his name, not a description) twigged me to this juicy bit in the NYT about how other countries deployed to Afghanistan feed their troops.

Each year, among the countries with troops in Afghanistan — the current number is 47 — tens of millions of dollars are spent researching how to fit the most calories, nutrition and either comfort or fun into a small, light package. The menus and accompaniments are intended not just to nourish but also to remind the soldier of home. Some include branded comfort foods — Australians get a dark-brown spreadable yeast-paste treat called Vegemite, for example — while others get national staples like liverwurst (Germany), or lamb curry (Britain’s current culinary obsession).

I was lucky enough during my time to try a few other countries rations. Most of the time, it was a nice change of pace. Most of the time…

Go read the whole thing.

Haiti- Military Response to Humanitarian Disaster

We’ve seen the utter devastation of Port au Prince, the capital of Haiti. And by now, you may have heard that the US is starting to send relief and aid. Let’s take a quick glance at what some of the services are doing.

Haiti was a mess before the massive earthquake. Some of you may recall that the US military intervened in Haiti back in 94 because of political instability.

In this case, the military (and civil branches of our government) are intervening to provide humanitarian assistance.

First on the scene has been the US Coast Guard. Recon overflights by USCG HC-130s have provided the “first look” at what has been damaged. They are looking at different things than a news crew might. For instance, while a news crew looks for the most emotionally moving issues, the overflight looked to see what infrastructure was in place to support further operations, such as what airfields appear usable, and what is the condition of the port facilities (not good, it appears).

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Coast Guard helicopters have also already evacuated several US citizens for medical treatment, and the USCG C-130s will (or may have already) provided evacuation to non-injured US citizens.

Next are several Coast Guard cutters. They won’t be able to provide much in the way of direct relief, but will provide greater information for follow-on forces and some command and control assets to marshall the first wave of relief forces, until they can provide their own control.

The Navy of course, is jumping in with both feet. The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, already at sea, is enroute, and should arrive today. Aircraft carriers may not be the best platform for humanitarian missions, but they ain’t all bad. They have a nuclear powered fresh water plant, and they make a great heliport. It looks like the Vinson has loaded aboard a couple squadrons of Navy helos to support relief efforts. Carriers also have a nice pool of manpower available to help with the logistics.

The Navy is also sending the hospital ship USNS Comfort. That’s gonna take a little while. The Comfort is held on a “5-day alert” status. The ship has a crew on board, but its medical staff are all at their “day jobs” and it takes a little while to round them up. Then it takes a little while to get there.

In addition, the Navy is sending several amphibious warfare ships to Haiti. ‘Gators, as they are fondly known in the Navy, are very useful for humanitarian missions. They can carry and distribute large volumes of cargo in places with little or no port infrastructure. They can operate and support large numbers of helicopters. They have excellent on-board hospital facilities. They also carry a lot of Marines, which can provide  a ready pool of trained and well organized manpower to aid with search and rescue, distribution of supplies, triage, evaluation and evacuation of the injured. The ‘gators also have excellent command and control facilities, which they can use both to organize US forces, but also help non-governmental organizations with their communication problems.

The Army is getting involved as well, of course. They will be deploying a battalion of troops to provide manpower and a small command and control element. Behind the scenes, US based elements will be getting the logistics rolling. If there’s one thing the Army is good at (all the services, really), it’s moving large amounts of stuff to places that aren’t used to getting large amounts of stuff. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some Army helicopters operating from the Carl Vinson, either. They’ve done that before (in fact, the Navy used one of its carriers as a helicopter carrier for Army helos in the ’94 intervention in Haiti- the first time they’d done that).

The Air Force will provide the bulk of air transport to move relief supplies. Expect to see a lot of C-130s flying in water and humanitarian daily rations, as well as blankets, medicines and other supplies.

Coordinating all these efforts is the US Southern Command, which has responsibility of all US operations in Latin America. They’ll be the folks coordinating the military effort, trying to see that stuff gets where it is needed most.

As a practical matter, using the military for humanitarian operations is terribly efficient. It’s expensive, and the platforms and people are being used in ways they weren’t intended to be used. Still, the military has gotten fairly good at it. We’ve seen the military conduct disaster relief operations in the wake of the tsunami of 2005 and several other natural disasters around the world, as well as in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. One thing the military is very good at is learning what they did right, and what they did wrong during those operations. Still, there is only so much the military, or anyone, can do in this case. The loss of like in Haiti is horrific. The best we can hope for now is to prevent widespread disease, and to give these poor people a fighting chance at mere survival. Please pray for them.

More on MREs

Soldiers will never be completely happy with MREs, the Army’s combat ration. Having said that, they are now far and away better than the earlier generations of MREs (some old timer is gonna show up and tell me how hard it was in the days of C-Rats).

Most of the time, I was too busy to do anything with an MRE other than heat it up. But given enough time, troops will put their culinary skills to work to improve the meal.  They may not quite make it to this level, however…


So, what’s your favorite MRE/C-Rat?

It’s almost like we are prescient…

Well, this can’t be good. Militants in Pakistan have severed one of two routes through Pakistan that support US and NATO operations in Afghanistan.

Remember how we talked about logisticians hating only having a limited number of supply routes? That’s a prime example why. It isn’t time to panic. But this sure isn’t going to make things easier, either. And with the promised increase in the number of US troops in Afghanistan, it is going to make them that much harder to support.