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thedrifter
06-22-04, 08:16 AM
Simple resealable plastic bag will
allow for hot beverage in the field


By Lisa Burgess, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Tuesday, June 22, 2004


ARLINGTON, Va. — Starting next year, tired soldiers in the field will be able to quickly cook up a cup of Joe, thanks to a sealable plastic bag that will be put in every Meal, Ready to Eat, or MRE.

The new “hot beverage bag” is designed to be used in conjunction with the flameless ration heater bag included in every MRE.

The warfighter would fill the bag with a cup of water, seal it, place it inside the heater bag, and after six minutes, be able to place the hot bagin a cardboard box and mix in the instant coffee or other beverage mix.

The bag provides a solution to a dilemma that has nagged defense food experts since steel helmets went out of style.

“[What] we haven’t been able to do well is provide hot water in the field,” according to Gerald Darsch, director of the Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass.

Soldiers used to be able to boil water in their helmets; no more with Kevlar.

Offering within the MREs a simple plastic bag that costs taxpayers less than one cent “is a real no-brainer,” Darsch said during a June 17 demonstration on Capitol Hill of the directorate’s latest innovations. “But it’s probably going to make more of a difference to the warfighter than any of the other fancy, bells-and-whistles [food packaging] developments we’ve done.”

The ration heaters are intended to heat the MRE entree, but Darsch said Natick researchers have long noted that many troops don’t use the device.

“There are always plenty of spare [ration heaters] around,” Darsch said.

Likewise, the cardboard containers that surround many food items, including the entree, are often discarded, he said.

In the process of conducting their research into improving MREs, Natick scientists had collected numerous comments from troops saying that a waterproof, resealable plastic bag would be handy — not just for storing uneaten snacks, but also to hold small personal items.

So last year, Natick researchers decided to combine the obvious, Darsch said — a plastic bag for carrying items that doubles as a coffee mug.

The plastic bags were field-tested by troops in Iraq over the winter, and were “an unbelievable hit,” Darsch said.

In response, Combat Feeding officials decided to put the bags on the fast track, Darsch said. Natick’s schedule now calls for the devices to be inserted into all MREs that will be manufactured beginning in 2005, Darsch said.


http://www.estripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=22906


Ellie

thedrifter
06-23-04, 10:27 AM
DOD food specialists aim to improve variety with latest versions of MREs


By Lisa Burgess, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Wednesday, June 23, 2004

ARLINGTON, Va. — As they design the combat rations that will keep U.S. troops fueled and moving in the field, the specialists at the Defense Department’s Combat Feeding Directorate sometimes look for meals that provide emotional nourishment, as well as physical.

With its echoes of Thanksgiving meals with family and friends, “stuffing,” said Kathy-Lynn Evangelos, an executive assistant in the feeding directorate, “is comfort food.”

The stuffing, with its chunks of sausage and fresh herbs, was the hit of the day Thursday, when directorate staff traveled from the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., to Capitol Hill to give civilians a taste of the latest in troop combat chow.

Pending troop approval, cornbread stuffing may make a 2006 appearance in Meals, Ready to Eat.

Natick food technicians were kept busy dishing up more than a dozen other entrees, ranging from cheesy ham and potatoes to beef burgundy. Some are destined for the field as soon as 2005, while others, such as the stuffing, are still waiting for a thumbs-up from troops who will test them this summer.

Natick is continuing a push to improve combat rations that began after Operation Desert Storm, when MREs were so bad “the best way to eat them was wearing goggles and with a bad head cold,” according to Gerald Darsch, head of the combat feeding group.

Since 1993, more than 150 new items have been improved for inclusions in the meals, and menus are reviewed and reformulated on a yearly basis, Darsch said.

Troops also have more variety to choose from: 24 different MRE menus, instead of 12.

A larger selection is important for morale, First Sgt. Colin Rich, a combat veteran with the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment out of Fort Bragg.

“Variety is the spice of life,” Rich, who attended the tasting session, told Stars and Stripes.

Variety is especially critical for the minority of troops who have to eat MREs for weeks, and occasionally months, on end: Darsch said he’s heard from a one-star general deployed to Iraq who together with his troops ate “nothing but MREs, three times a day, for 118 days straight.”

“I think that may be a record,” he said.

Told that many servicemembers eat MREs for weeks at a time, Richard Hoar, a 22-year-old staffer on the House Committee for Education in the Workforce, looked startled.

“I feel bad for them,” he said after eating his first military rations. “It’s pretty bland.”

Then he looked impressed.

“More power to them,” Hoar said.

A fellow staffer on the education committee, 23-year-old Donald McIntosh, said the spread was uninspiring.

“It looked good when I first saw it, but everything tastes the same, honestly,” said McIntosh of his first encounter with MREs.

“But I ate it all, if that says anything,” McIntosh said.

“Tabasco helped,” he said — a discovery made by countless chowhounds before him.


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Expanded MRE offerings

The Meal, Ready-to-Eat is used by all the services to sustain individuals during operations that preclude organized food service facilities. The following is a list of what's in the new MREs.

MENU 1

Grilled beefsteak with mushroom gravy and western-style beans

Jam
Cracker
Candy
Steak sauce
Dairy shake
Red pepper
Spoon
Accessory packet A

MENU 2

BBQ pork rib

New England clam chowder
Cookie
Cheddar cheese
2 wheat snack bread
Electrolyte drink
Hot sauce
Spoon
Accessory packet A

MENU 3

Beef ravioli

Fruit, wet pack
Fudge brownie
Cheddar cheese
Veg.-flavored cracker
Chocolate-fortified drink
Hot sauce
Spoon
Accessory packet A

MENU 4

Cheese and vegetable omelet

Hash browns with bacon
Toaster pastry
Jam
Cracker
Candy
Hot sauce
Spoon
Accessory packet C

MENU 5

Chicken breast fillet

Minestrone stew
Pound cake
Jalapeno cheese
Wheat snack bread
Candy
French vanilla coffee
Jalapeno ketchup
Spoon
Accessory packet B

MENU 6

Chicken fajita

Yellow and wild rice pilaf
Nut and raisin mix
Cheddar cheese
Tortilla
French vanilla coffee
Seasoning blend
Spoon
Accessory packet C

MENU 7

Chicken with salsa

Mexican rice
Shortbread cookie
Jalapeno cheese
Veg.-flavored cracker
Candy
Mocha-flavored coffee
Hot sauce
Spoon
Accessory packet B

MENU 8

Hamburger patty

Mexican-style macaroni and cheese
Nacho-filled pretzels
Bacon cheese
2 wheat snack bread
Cured beef snacks
BBQ sauce
Hot sauce
Spoon
Accessory packet B

MENU 9

Beef stew

Chocolate sports bar
Peanut butter
Cracker
Dairy shake
Hot sauce
Spoon
Accessory packet A

MENU 10

Chili with macaroni

Cookie
Jalapeno cheese
Wheat snack bread
Candy
Cocoa
Red pepper
Spoon
Accessory packet A

MENU 11

Penne with veg. sausage in spicy tomato sauce

Dried fruit
Pound cake
Peanut butter
Cracker
Electrolyte drink
Seasoning blend
Spoon
Accessory packet C

MENU 12

Veggie burger in BBQ sauce (vegetarian)

Dried fruit
Cinnamon scone
Potato sticks
2 wheat snack bread
Chocolate-fortified drink
Hot sauce
Spoon
Accessory packet B

MENU 13

Cheese tortellini (vegetarian)

Spiced apples
Pound cake
Peanut butter
Cracker
Candy
Seasoning blend
Spoon
Accessory packet C

MENU 14

Vegetable manicotti

Fruit, wet pack
Pound cake
Peanut butter
Cracker
Ranger bar
Hot sauce
Spoon
Accessory packet B

MENU 15

Beef enchiladas

Refried beans
Cookie
Jalapeno cheese
Veg.-flavored cracker
Picante sauce
Chocolate-fortified drink
Red pepper
Spoon
Accessory packet A

MENU 16

Chicken with noodles

Fruit, wet pack
Pretzels
Cheddar cheese
Cracker
Candy
Cocoa
Hot sauce
Spoon
Accessory packet A

MENU 17

Sloppy Joe filling

Baked snack cracker Cheese
Shortbread cookie
Jalapeno cheese
2 wheat snack bread
Electrolyte drink
Hot Sauce
Spoon
Accessory packet A

MENU 18

Cajun rice with sausage

Cheddar-filled pretzels
Peanut butter
Cracker
Nuts
Chocolate-fortified drink
Hot sauce
Spoon
Accessory packet A

MENU 19

Pot roast with vegetables

Dried fruit
Cookie
Peanut butter
Cracker
Cocoa
Hot sauce
Spoon
Accessory packet A

MENU 20

Spaghetti with meat sauce

Blueberry-cherry cobbler
Cheddar cheese
Wheat snack bread
Electrolyte drink
Hot sauce
Spoon
Accessory packet A

MENU 21

Chicken tetrazzini

Cookies
Jelly
Cracker
Dairy shake
Seasoning blend
Spoon
Accessory packet C

MENU 22

Jambalaya

Pound cake
Jam
Wheat snack bread
Dairy shake
Hot sauce
Spoon
Accessory packet A

MENU 23

Chicken with cavatelli

Fig bar
Pound cake
Bacon cheese
Wheat snack bread
Carbohydrate-fortified drink
Hot sauce
Spoon
Accessory packet A

MENU 24

Meatloaf with gravy

Mashed potatoes
Vanilla wafer cookie
Jelly
Cracker
Candy
Cocoa
Red pepper
Spoon
Accessory packet B

Source: DOD Combat Feeding Natick Soldier Center


What’s new


Penne with spicy tomato sauce; sloppy Joe filling; chicken fajitas; cheese omelets with vegetables; tortillas; and hash browns with bacon
Smoke House almonds; Ranger bar; Cheese Nips; raisins, white chocolate/raspberry cookies; cinnamon scones; and blueberry-cherry cobbler
Carbohydrate-fortified beverage mix; carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage mix; jalapeno ketchup; and steak sauce
What’s better

The texture of many foods, thanks to better processing methods. Rice stays separate and isn’t mushy; beef chunks are grained and chewy, like normal steak, instead of that “mystery meat” quality.
More interesting seasoning. Many new entrees have clearly visible herbs, such as the oregano in tomato sauce, while others offer more sophisticated flavors, such as fire-roasted red peppers.
Condiments are also more varied — not just salt or Tabasco sauce. New meals also offer red pepper, spicy ketchup and seasoning blends.
What still needs work

Keeping the taste and texture of cheese in meals prepared with it. “Cheese doesn’t do well,” even with the improved MRE processing methods, according to Janice Rosado, a physical scientist at the Combat Feeding Directorate.
High cooking temperatures also prevent pasta from being offered “al dente,” or chewy, although it isn’t as mushy as it used to be, according to troop feedback.
Sources: Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center, Natick, Mass.; interviews with military and civilian taste testers.

http://www.estripes.com/photos/22928_62218230b.jpg

Lisa Burgess / S&S
Wesley Long, left, a student employee in DOD's Combat Feeding Directorate, and Mike Acheson, a food technologist for the directorate, dish up samples of the latest hot chow last week on Capitol Hill.

http://www.estripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=22928


Ellie

Do We Say Tabasco Sauce!