QUANTICO, Virginia — The days of having to field-strip MREs to consolidate and lighten the combat load could be numbered for Marine grunts.
Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader, the commander of Marine Corps Systems Command, told an audience of industry professionals here Monday that he wanted to pursue a tailor-made meal, ready-to-eat suited to the needs of Marine infantrymen — one of an array of options aimed at making Marines lighter and more ready to fight.
Speaking at SYSCOM’s first Equipping the Infantry challenge, Shrader said troops were forced to spend extra time and energy reducing weight after receiving their expeditionary rations. In a future fighting environment where troops may be spread across a battlefield and living out of their packs for extended periods, he said, these things matter.
“What I’m told the infantrymen do now is, they get the MREs and the first thing they do is they field-strip them. They open the bags, and they take out what they want, and they chuck the rest of the crap, because it’s all weight,” Shrader said. “We want to get at that, what they haven’t chucked. Is there a special infantry MRE out there that lends itself to being easy to carry, and lance corporals, [privates first class] don’t have to field strip that trash.”
Currently, MREs–shelf-stable, self-contained meals that can last for years at room temperature–are formulated and tested at the Army Natick Soldier Research, Development & Engineering Center in Massachusetts and manufactured with the same menus and styles for all military services and specialties.
Could this system create a special, grunts-only combat ration with less weight and more essentials?
“I don’t think the system is designed that way right now, but I think we ought to open the aperture,” Shrader told Military.com in an interview. “Talking chow, I don’t think it’s set up to where we need it.”
Sgt. Robert Traver, a machine gun instructor at The Basic School aboard Quantico, told Military.com he is well familiar with the ritual of field-stripping MREs. When deployed, he said, he first removes the rectangular cardboard packaging and any materials that add unnecessary ounces: napkins, condiments, and sometimes even the water activated heater. Then, he said, he stores the snacks and packaged entrees together for easy access in his pack.
But a redesigned MRE for infantrymen probably still won’t have what Traver really wants in the field.
“Mom’s kitchen,” he said.