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Field Rations 26 ~ US MRE Part 6 ~ XXVIII Batch

Afghan National Army soldiers tucking into MRE rations in an abandoned compound during Operation HELMAND SPIDER, February 2010 [© USAF: Tech. Sgt. Efren Lopez]

In this sixth part of the US Army Meal Ready to Eat, or MRE, series we follow on from the FP-LRP with an XXVIII batch meal issued from around 2008/09, writes Bob Morrison.

The Christmas and New Year break, when most of the UK armed forces were on annual leave and breaking defence industry news stories were thin on the ground, gave me a chance to both delve back into my rations photo archives and brush up on the evolution of the MRE story to date. I still have a comparatively recent batch MRE, picked up last summer, to open and sample but in the meantime I am sticking with the timeline and focussing on a 2008 batch meal of the type ordered in 2007, delivered in 2008 and consumed over the next couple of years.

 

Since 1996 the MRE has been packed in a pinkish sand coloured outer pouch [©BM]

The mainstream alternative to the Food Packet – Long Range Patrol (FP-LRP) and the field ration which most US personnel were issued in Afghanistan at the end of the last decade was the standard production Meal, Ready-to-Eat, Individual but this was usually just referred to as the MRE. Like the FP-LRP, this meal was is issued in an outer pouch in that pinkish sandy shade which the American supply chain mostly described as being beige or light beige, though occasional references to it being tan or light tan can be found. Afghan National Army troops on joint operations with US forces in this period (see lead photo) were also often issued with MREs at this time, as were embedded journalists like our Senior Correspondent Carl Schulze who made many trips to the strife-torn country to cover ISAF Coalition troops in the field.

 

MRE contents slipped carefully out of the pouch to show how packed [©BM]

I believe the the meal illustrated here was most likely from the MRE XXVIII (28) batch – as explained in an earlier article, date codes are not easy to work out – and the main pouch contained in Menu 1 was Chili With Beans; this entrée (the term Americans use for the main course rather than the starter) was introduced from 2006 and is so popular it has been in every Menu 1 since. As this main course was also included in both MRE XXIX and MRE XXX batch Menu1 pouches in circulation at that time I could not be 100% sure that mine was MRE XXVIII and production might have been a little later. Again as previously mentioned, batch numbers are not printed on the outer meal pouch or its content list so if you do not have sight of the outer carton used to transport either Case A (Menus 1-12) or Case B (Menus 13-24) pouches it can be very difficult to ascertain the precise age or batch of your meal.

 

The included Flameless Ration Heater, calibrated bag for measuring water and issue spoon [©BM]

Unlike the FP-LRP consumed over roughly the same period our MRE contained a Flameless Ration Heater, a handy accessory introduced after the 1991 Gulf War and believed first deployed operationally on RESTORE HOPE in Somalia at the end of 1992. This is a simple exothermic device consisting of bagged chemicals in a heavy duty polythene pouch which are activated by a minuscule amount of water and will heat the contents of an unopened main meal retort pouch in ten to fifteen minutes so long as the simple instructions printed on the outside are followed.

 

The main course (entrée in US parlance) pouch comes in a cardboard protective outer [©BM]

Excluding beverage powders, which need water to reconstitute, the contents of an MRE are ready to eat straight out of the packaging and can be eaten cold if this is an operational necessity. However, to gain full benefit it is best pouches are heated where appropriate; immersion in hot water is sufficient when the FRH cannot be used, such as in enclosed spaces with insufficient ventilation to disperse the small amount of hydrogen gas produced as part of the exothermic process, and of course in hot arid climate zones they can be left out in direct sunlight to slowly heat up.

 

Contents of the MRE accessory pack: toilet tissue, creamer, salt, pepper, matches, towelette, gum and Diario instant coffee [©BM]

Each MRE pouch is intended, when ALL edible components are eaten, to provide an average of 1250 kcals, broken down into 13% protein, 36 % fat, and 51% carbohydrates, as well as providing one third of the Military Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamins and minerals determined essential by the US Surgeon General; i.e. three MREs are required to provide the estimated minimum of 3600 calories required by a frontline NATO male soldier for a single day in an operational environment (though Arctic and High Mountain deployments requires more calories). MRE shelf life is a minimum three years at 27C, but this can be extended through the use of cold storage facilities prior to distribution.

 

Bottle-shaped Chocolate Dairyshake pouch and Cheese Spread sachet [©BM]

Our sample MRE contained: Chili With Beans, in a pale green 227g retort pouch inside a cardboard outer carton; a Toaster Pastry, Frosted Brown Sugar, which was actually a Kellogg’s Pop Tart in a beige protective outer pouch; Cornbread (71g), with a non-edible desiccant pad inside the beige outer; 2x Crackers (38g); Cheese Spread, in a beige 43g sachet; Chocolate Dairyshake pouch, requiring 180ml of water to reconstitute; Accessory Pack A; a Flameless Ration Heater, a brown plastic spoon; and a ziplock polythene Hot Beverage Bag, used for either measuring water to reconstitute beverages or to heat beverages with the FRH. The accessory packet included: coffee, sugar, creamer, pepper, salt, chewing gum, towelette, toilet paper, and a book of matches.

 

Although US units we work with in the field are generous, it would be taking liberties to expect our hosts to offer more than the occasional spare ration pack for us to disseminate for a feature article, and of course Carl be expected to lug back two 10kg cases containing a dozen different menus back from an operational embed, so as yet we have been unable to taste test the entire range from any particular annual batch.

 

For those interested, according to official sources the main course options for MRE XXXIII batch were, from #1 to #24:- Chili with Beans; Boneless Pork Rib; Beef Ravioli in Meat Sauce; Cheese & Vegetable Omlet; Chicken Breast Filet; Chicken with Noodles; Meatloaf with Gravy; Beef Patty Grilled; Beef Stew; Chili & Macaroni; Vegetable Lasagna; Veggie Burger in BBQ Sauce; Cheese Tortellini; Penne with Vegetarian Sausage; Beef Enchiladas; Chicken Fajita; Sloppy Joe Filling; Meatballs with Marinara; Pot Roast with Vegetables; Spaghetti with Meat Sauce; Tuna in Pouch; Chicken with Dumplings; Chicken Pesto & Pasta; and Chicken Breast Strips with Salsa. Spellings here are as used by the US Defense Logistics Agency.

To be continued…

{ images © Bob Morrison unless noted }

 

 

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