The Army Family of Rations
CW3 Peter Motrynczuk
Quartermaster Professional Bulletin – Autumn 1991
Short overview of rations used during Operation Desert Shield/Storm 1990-91
The Right Meal, At The Right Place And At The Right Time
Before Operation Desert Shield/Storm in Southwest Asia, the Army had a feeding standard of providing all soldiers with one Meal, Ready to Eat (MRE) and two hot meals per day. The hot meal was primarily T-Rations. The standard also allowed for two A-Ration meals in a seven-day period. This policy, more of a “prescription” than a feeding standard, surely did not provide the commander with the flexibility to take care of soldiers. At that same time, the U.S. Army Quartermaster Center and School was aggressively pursuing a revised feeding standard to provide the commander with the ability to give all soldiers on the battlefield the right meal, at the right place and at the right time. A revised feeding policy simply states that field commanders must provide their soldiers with three quality meals per day. This revised feeding policy was approved in November 1990 and successfully exercised during Operation Desert Storm.
To support the revised feeding policy of three quality meals per day, the commander has available a “family of rations” built on individual and group rations. During Operation Desert Shield/Storm, the primary individual ration was the MRE Group rations included unitized T-Rations, unitized B-Rations and A-Rations.
As mentioned, the MRE was the primary individual ration used in the theater. More than 91 million meals or 50 percent of the meals shipped to the Joint Operations Area (JOA) were MREs. Units deployed with three to five days of basic load and were then supported by the theater with their Class I (rations) needs. The MREs issued by the Defense Personnel Support Center (DPSC) to the JOA were the latest MREs. The improved MREs included increased entree size, two breakfast entrees (ham and egg omelet and corned beef hash), name brand candies, Tabasco pepper sauce, Taster’s Choice coffee, beverage powder and wet towelettes. During Operation Desert Shield/Storm, the MRE was enhanced with fresh fruits and fruit juice. A high-heat-resistant chocolate bar the Hershey Desert Bar; was also developed and produced to enhance the MRE. The Desert Bar was so well received that it will continue in 2 of 12 menus in future MRE productions.
The flameless ration heater, a recent development that enables the soldier to heat an MRE, was shipped in bulk with distribution problems and the rapid end of the war, few soldiers realized the benefit of the flameless ration heater. However, the flameless ration heater is now available in bulk pack to Active and Reserve Component units to supplement the MRE. The item is listed in the C8900 Federal Supply Catalog for Subsistence. The food service sergeant can order the heater through normal Class I channels. The flameless ration heater received high reviews from soldiers and leaders alike. We envision the item packaged in the MRE pouch in future procurements.
Other individual rations in our existing “family of rations” include the Ration Cold Weather (RCW) and the Ration, Lightweight 30-Day (RLW-30). The RCW, a unique individual ration for arctic environments, consists of six menus with entrees, snacks and numerous hot drinks. The RCW requires little preparation. The ration, lighter and smaller than three MREs, contains approximately 4,500 calories per daily ration menu.
The RLW-30 is a lightweight, calorie-dense ration designed for the Special Operations Forces. The ration consists of dehydrated components and may be eaten as is or with minimum preparation by the soldier. The RLW-30 weighs less than one pound and contains approximately 2,100 calories per daily menu ration. The ration is made up of six different menus.
Group rations, unlike individual rations, require cooks and food preparation equipment (including refrigeration when serving A-Rations). In addition, Class I personnel requirements increase with group rations. Our existing group rations include T-Rations, B-Rations and A-Rations. All of these rations were used to support our soldiers during Operation Desert Shield/Storm.
T-Rations consist of semi-perishable foods that include a variety of fully cooked tray pack entrees, vegetables, desserts and starches. The tray pack container serves as a packing, heating and serving container. There are 10 breakfast and 10 lunch/dinner menus. The T-Ration Module contains everything needed to support the soldier, including the single service eating ware. Milk and bread are required to make the meal nutritionally adequate. The T-Ration may be further enhanced with dry cereal, fresh fruits, salad material and some condiments. The highly acceptable lunch/dinner menus include such entrees as chicken breast with gravy, hamburgers and turkey slices with gravy. Breakfast entrees include a variety of egg omelets, ham, pork sausage links and creamed ground beef. Research continues to produce improved breakfast components for the Breakfast T-Ration menus such as sausage patty with biscuit and chipped beef. The T-Ration Module is now being unitized 18 meals per module rather than 36 meals to the module. Additionally, the modules still are unitized 12 modules to a pallet, but because the module is 18 meals versus 36 there are now only 216 meals per pallet. This initiative is expected to reduce waste, prevent repetition in menus and make handling the module easier. More than 20 million T-Ration meals were shipped to support Operation Desert Shield/Storm, which made up about 11 percent of all rations shipped to the theater. About 98,000 T-Rations were served daily, which made up approximately 7 percent of the daily rations consumed. The beauty of the T-Ration continues to be simplicity, compact packaging and the minimum requirement for personnel and equipment to prepare the ration.
A ration revived for extensive use during Operation Desert Shield/Storm and a viable member of our “family of rations” today is the B-Ration. B-Rations used today are those semi-perishable foods packaged in various-sized cans, bags and boxes.
B-Rations used in Southwest Asia were packed in six easy-to-handle boxes. The six boxes include everything the cook needs to prepare a meal for up to 100 soldiers, including the single-service eatingware. Milk and bread are required to make the meal nutritionally adequate, and enhancements such as salad and fresh fruits are optional. These six boxes are called a 100-soldier increment. Two 100-soldier increments make up a pallet of unitized B-Rations. Over 39 million meals were shipped to Operation Desert Storm/Shield, which made up 22 percent of the total rations shipped to the theater. The unitized B-Rations were a preferred ration used during Operation Desert Shield/Storm.
Fresh foods or A-Rations are the ultimate ration commanders like to provide their soldiers. It continues to be a member of our “family of rations.” As with the other group rations, A-Rations require food preparation personnel and equipment, plus refrigeration to hold the perishable fresh foods. During Operation Desert Shield/Storm, contract operations provided extensive A-Rations. Over 460,000 A-Ration meals were served daily, which made up approximately 35 percent of the daily rations consumed. The primary points to consider before the A-Ration option are an adequate number of cooks, equipment and Class I support.
Bread on the battlefield is a must. Today’s technology provides us a capability to provide our soldiers with a shelf-stable “pouch bread” that actually looks, smells and tastes like regular bread. The pouch bread supplemented all types of rations during Operation Desert Shield/Storm and proved to be a highly accepted product. This item is now available to enhance all rations during field training exercises. It especially complements the MRE, T- or B-Rations until field-baked or contract bread becomes available. The bread comes packed in 12 individual servings per bag, 8 bags to a box. It is listed in the C8900 subsistence catalog and is requisitioned through normal Class I supply channels. A Standard Army Field Menu (Coordinating Draft) incorporating T-, B- and A-Ration menus has been developed to provide guidance on the “family of rations,” and it also provides a 10-day menu cycle for T-, B- and A-Ration menus. This coordinating draft is in the field for comment before it becomes the single field menu for Active and Reserve Component use.
A significant lesson learned during Operation Desert Shield/Storm is that commanders must have the flexibility to decide the ration required to support soldiers based on the tactical and logistical situations. As time went on during Operation Desert Shield/Storm, we realized how the “family of rations,” would capitalize on specific strengths of available rations, supporting equipment and host nation support within the theater. Given the flexible feeding policy coupled with the “family of rations,” commanders today can ensure that all soldiers are provided the right meal, at the right place and at the right time.
MEAL, READY TO EAT (MRE)
The latest versions of the MRE Include Increased entree size (8 ounces), two breakfast entrees, name brand candy, Tabasco sauce, Taster’s Choice coffee, beverage powder, wet towelettes and a longer spoon. The Hershey Desert Bar, Introduced during Operation Desert Shield/Storm, will be in future MREs.
FLAMELESS RATION HEATER
The Flameless Heater for Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs) enables the soldier to heat an MRE. Available In bulk, the heater can be ordered by the food service sergeant through normal Class I (rations) supply channels.
RATION COLD WEATHER (RCW)
The RCW, an individual ration for artic regions, consists of six menus of entrees, snacks and numerous hot drinks with approximately 4,500 calories per daily ration menu.
RATION, LIGHTWEIGHT 30-DAY (RLW-30)
The RLW-30 is a lightweight, calorie-dense ration for the Special Operations Forces. The RLW-30 weighs less than one pound and contains approximately 2,100 calories per daily menu ration.
The T-Ration module is now sent to units in 18-meal modules rather than the earlier 36-meal module. T-Rations arrive 12 modules to a pallet (216 meals per pallet). By reducing both TRation module and pallet size, the Army expects to reduce waste, prevent repeated menus and ease the handling of the module. The T-Ration continues in its simplicity, good packaging and minimum requirements for preparation.
Today’s B-Rations are semiperishable foods packaged in various sized cans, bags and boxes. The B-Ration is unitized 100 meals per increment, two Increments per pallet. The BRation is a good ration option when food preparation personnel and equipment are available and the tactical and logistical situation permits.
At the time this article was published in 1991 CW3 Peter Motrynczuk was the Chief of Army Field Feeding Systems Branch, Army Center for Excellence, U.S. Army Quartermaster School, Fort Lee, Virginia