combat troops in Afghanistan are living off MREs for extended periods while
running around the hills. That's leaving some of the troops undernourished. The
MREs don't supply enough calories, there are no other sources of food available,
and many troops are losing twenty pounds or more during their twelve month
This was anticipated, at
least on paper. But the staff officers and scientists who run the MRE program
missed a few important items. First, because the troops in Afghanistan are
moving around on foot, and carrying all their gear with them, they ruthlessly
drop anything they don't need. Thus the 24 ounce MREs are often "stripped" to
eliminate a lot of the nice to have stuff, reducing the weight to 16 ounces.
But this tends to knock off a few hundred calories as well. The troops often get power bars, and other
goodies, to augment MREs. The army
developed its own power bar (called the HooAH) in 2000. But not enough of these
got to the troops. The HooAH weighs 2.2 ounces and contains 280 calories.
The Department of Defense
has, for over half a century, tried to develop a lightweight, high calorie
"combat rations." Success has been elusive. In Iraq, the troops get most of
their chow from mess halls, and there's plenty of food to be had there. Same
deal in Afghanistan, for some of the combat troops. But for those out in the
hills for long periods of time, and unable to get power bars shipped from home,
the pounds just slip away.
The army now has an
official "combat ration", called the First Strike Ration. These weigh 30 ounces
and contain 2,500 calories. But the doctors insist these should not be used
more than three days in a row. Another problem is that combat troops will eat
the wrong foods when back at base. The stress of combat induces many to pig out
on comfort foods (sweet and salty stuff) which does not contain the nutrients
needed to stay in top physical shape.
While many troops are
disciplined to eat what's good for them, the army has a problem with the
minority that doesn't. So new combat rations are being developed that address
the need for comfort foods, yet still contain the needed nutrients.
All this is not a new
problem. It was first encountered during World War II, and has been a major
irritant, for combat troops and the people who develop combat rations, ever