November 29, 2007:
In the U.S. military, higher pay for the troops has led to some
unexpected behavior. For example, more and more unmarried troops (about half
the force) don't eat at the "dining facility" (formerly known as the Mess
Hall). While the official chow has been getting better, the troops prefer fast
food, restaurants, or using a microwave back at the barracks. The unmarried
troops no longer live in traditional "barracks" (a large room with a few dozen
beds and wall lockers), but in rooms and suites competitive with those found in
college dorms. Microwaves, and even small refrigerators, are common items, and
this enables troops to do without the mess hall.
Commanders have been noticing the sparsely
populated dining facilities, and in some cases have been forced to close them
(by the accountants, which the military has plenty of.) When that is done, the
troops sometimes (when a base has no more mess halls) get extra pay each month
with which to buy food. This comes to nearly ten bucks a day. And on some
bases, common kitchens have been added to some barracks. Unlike civilian
roommates, there are NCOs and officers around to order everyone to do their
part to keep the kitchen clean.
Letting the troops feed themselves is cheaper than
running the dining facilities, and is a return to a policy that existed for
thousands of years, until about a century ago, when the military took over the
"food service" task. Now the troops are back to "foraging and preparing" their
own meals. Hey, it worked for the Romans.