Food and Drink

MRERations on the battlefield have come a long way over the history of war. Military scientists are constantly trying to make them more nutritional — and although it’s hard to believe sometimes — taste better.

As part of’s “5 Things You Don’t Know” series, we took a look at the history of rations and where they might be going. For instance, U.S. military leaders didn’t start worrying about how the rations tasted until 1944.

As for the future? Having a hot dog or a piece of pizza printed for on the battlefield is not out of the realm of possibility. Check it out here. And for mobile readers, use this link.


Joe Florko — a former federal law-enforcement officer and wilderness ranger for the National Park Service for nearly 10 years – has started an emergency-preparedness company that assembles gear packages for first-responder and aid worker types.

As a gearhead, I love putting together my own emergency kits and sometimes spend a week or so organizing just the right combination of gear.

But I suppose there are some people out there who just need a good assortment of kit and need it fast. So for these lost souls, there’s Florko’s Zyon Systems.

“We offer professional-caliber, configured emergency kits,” he said in a recent email. “I’ve used my experience responding to emergency calls and hauling people out of the back-country to build completely turn-key emergency response packs.”

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The U.S. Army is working on an improved version of the Flameless Ration Heater that doesn’t need water to heat Meals, Ready-to-Eat.

“Unlike the current ration heater, the Air Activated heater does not require water, a valuable battlefield commodity. This new approach to heating and advanced technology aims to lower cost, weight, and logistics burden of chemical heating technologies,” according to Army officials at Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.

The Air Activated Heater contains a peel away layer that, once removed, allows air to penetrate the holes of the outer foil layer. After passing through the felt diffusion layer, the air reacts with the activated carbon, electrolyte, and rate-controlling binder, producing a safe exothermic reaction, Natick officials say.

This new technology will heat the MRE entrée by 100 degrees Fahrenheit in less than ten minutes. Negligible hydrogen off-gassing eliminates operational and transport restrictions associated with the current heater and offers improved safety, according to Natick.

The DoD Combat Feeding Program plans to transition the technical data to Defense Logistics Agency – Troop Support for use with the MRE.

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size0U.S. Army scientists have created a new smartphone app help commanders plan for how much water their soldiers will need on a mission.

The Soldier Water Estimation Tool, or SWET, is designed to simplify water planning, task that can be a logistical nightmare for leaders. Too much water can strain already heavy combat loads, forcing some soldiers to pack too little in favor of a lighter pack. When soldiers don’t have enough water, dehydration could set in, decreasing performance and increasing the risk of serious heat illnesses.

“Water is a huge logistical problem for training and field missions,” Nisha Charkoudian, a research physiologist from the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, known as USARIEM, Thermal and Mountain Medicine Division, said in a recent Army press release.

“Obviously, planners do not want too much, but having too little can lead to serious problems. Dehydration exacerbates symptoms caused by heat and altitude exposure, and makes a lot of things worse, including the ability to perform physical tasks in hot and high-altitude environments.”

Charkoudian worked with researchers from USARIEM and a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory to develop an app that will help unit leaders accurately predict water needs with the goal of minimizing the burden of water transport and sustaining hydration.

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The U.S. military wants to know how nutritional supplements such as protein shakes can speed up the rate at which a soldier can heal from a wound or spot an enemy on the battlefield.

The U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, or USARIEM, in Natick, Mass., is leading a study that seeks to measure how physical stress such as sleep deprivation affects a soldier’s immune system in various environments, according to an official news release. [click to continue…]

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First-Strike-RationThe deadline for ISAF personnel to depart Afghanistan is allegedly 31 DEC 14. As the drawdown gathers steam, a lot of amenities currently available to deployed troops will disappear (including a few that probably never needed to be there in the first place). Ethnic food, food specialty nights, some hot chow meals entirely – it’s all slowly going away. You have no doubt seen the outraged posts and comments on social media from people whose idea of supporting the troops is sharing a picture or someone else’s outraged post, comment or picture about our troops having to miss meals – an inaccuracy, in large part, because the meals in question aren’t being denied, they are being replaced with MREs or UGRs.

Apparently not everyone understands the concept of “tooth to tail”.

“Ye Gods. They gave a war and garrison came.” Nate M.

“You’re not going to believe this s&!t Dave. Less than forty minutes from where we were eating MREs and showering once a week they had surf and turf night every Friday. Steak and lobster. Once a week. We were glad to get boxes of frozen corndogs. It’s like two different worlds.” Chad G.

In any case, MREs will be coming back in a larger numbers than deployed troops have seen in recent years. Part of this is due to an infrastructure that allows hot chow to be served with far greater frequency than any previous war in history. Part of it is because MREs are actually more expensive than a number of other options, including among other things boxed nasties. This is euphemistically referred to as returning to “expeditionary standards” and unfortunately it’s a necessary part of the drawdown. It will begin in the more outlying locations (those that had any amenities in the first place) and will slowly affect larger and larger installations. Presumably they’ll eventually pull out the ice cream stands and burger huts too.

The original article refers to as MREs as “dreaded”. I wasn’t sure that was a completely accurate term..then I remembered the old egg and cheese omelet packages (not the more recent #4s, the older ones) and thought…maybe dreaded isn’t such a bad word after all.

Brig. Gen. Steven Shapiro advises the hot food reductions must be in place by 01 October.

More here:

1stCAV Soldier eats MRE 1_1002640880_3AsJD-L-1_2007 released army pic

(On an only vaguely related note, this will make troops feel better:

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CamelBak put out a video about their “All Clear Microbiological UV Water Purifier” last month and somehow I missed it, so here it is late.

All Clear is a portable purification system built into the actual CamelBak water bottle that provides purified water in about one minute. You can fill it from a pond, a handy swamp, or even one of those streams that flows away from the COP…though personally I don’t know that I’d trust the UV to make that sort of libation safe. According to CamelBak, the All Clear reduces bacteria 99.9999%, virus 99.99%, Protozoa 99.9% and it will last 10,000 cycles. The description doesn’t mention particulate matter, though, you’ll still need to filter the silty/moss/gritty stuff out before putting it in the bottle (unless you just like the texture).

No word on how it affects taste and I haven’t tried it myself.  I’m guessing depending on your water source you still run the risk of getting that delicate bouquet of distilled ass sweat.

Beats getting dehydrated though.

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