Meals in the Military: What Do Our Troops Eat?
When you sit down to a nice home-cooked meal, freshly prepared lunch, greasy combo from the nearest fast food joint, or anything delicious and filling, the last thing on your mind is probably what everyone else is eating. But for members of the armed forces, almost every meal abroad comes with a side of cravings for something special back home. You’ll understand why when you learn what kind of food sustains our brave troops—and their brave stomachs.
Chow hall cuisine
Depending on local conditions and supply availability, US soldiers have access to a variety of fresh and preserved foods when deployed. Back at the base, chow hall cuisine is catered by military contractors and served cafeteria-style. Entrees can include burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches and chicken, plus a salad bar for healthy greens and desserts including fruit, cake ice cream, pudding and pies. As an added bonus, some facilities offer a weekly special, like Philly cheesesteaks or grilled tuna. Not bad, right? Even so, many soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines will still turn down the low-priced chow hall in favor of the food court at the NEX or MCX, or will turn to the Burger Kings and Pizza Huts which have sprouted up at most large bases even in Iraq or Afghanistan.
From canned rations to MREs
When deployed in combat zones or anywhere a field kitchen can’t be set up, troops subsist on daily rations. Before the 1980s, daily rations consisted of bland canned goods, but now the primary meal on the go is the MRE (or Meal, ReadytoEat). MREs provide around 1,250 calories per meal and consist of 13 percent protein, 36 percent fat, 51 percent carbohydrates. They’re edible for up to 3 1⁄2 years, and they’re also tough—MREs can survive a drop from a parachute.
So what delectable treats are dried, packaged and ready to rehydrate? Think chili with beans, spaghetti, beef stew, veggie burgers, and chicken fajitas. Side dishes include rice, corn, and mashed potatoes, plus crackers or bread and a spread of sorts (peanut butter, jelly or cheese). MREs wouldn’t be complete without desserts like cookies or pudding, plus candy and beverages (coffee, tea, cocoa and Gatorade-like mixes). And of course, they also include utensils, matches, and a disposable heater.
Rations on the move
When soldiers are on the move for long periods of time and don’t have time to stop to prepare an MRE, they’re typically issued First Strike Rations, which are 24-hour meal packs that contain only ready to eat items. These include everything needed to provide active soldiers all the nutrition necessary for combat. The question you probably have is, “But are they tasty?” Answer: Not so much.
Rations for a crowd
For large scale feeding out in the field, troops rely on Unitized Group Rations, which are prepackaged ingredients to make one large meal for up to 50 people. There are two types of Unitized Group Rations: UGRA, which contains high-quality frozen and perishable goods; and the UGRB, which includes dehydrated foods to save on weight.
Military meals around the world
Every country provides food to their military that somewhat resembles “back home” cuisine. South Korean troops get bibimbap and kimchi. Soldiers from France get deer pâté and duck confit. Colombian military rations are primarily rice and beans. And then there’s the unique priorities of the Italian Army, which issues its troops a “breakfast shot” cordial containing 40 percent alcohol.
Warming hearts, minds, and stomachs
Whether taking their meals at the base chow hall or making them on the go, our troops can always use a little extra love. Care packages filled with nonperishable treats from home are the perfect way to show your support and help keep them strong. If you want to make a care package extra special, include a personalized gift like a military-themed Bullet Bottle Opener from Bullets2Bandages. Better yet, have it engraved with a special message that will go straight to your favorite service member’s heart — and save it for their homecoming party when you can present it alongside a six-pack of some local craft beer.
At Bullets2Bandages, our troops (past, present, and future) are at the forefront of everything we do. One way we show our support is by donating 15% of our annual profits to veterans’ charities. That means, when you give a gift from us, you’re spreading love in more ways than one.