Inside the Military's MRE (Meal Ready to Eat)

By Mark Geary, Reporter

Vegetable lasagna is one of the entrees available in Tailored Operational Training Meals (TOTM) during annual training for the Iowa National Guard at Camp Ripley on Tuesday, June 22, 2010, in Minnesota. These meals offer a lesser calorie count to Meals Ready to Eat or MREs. TOTM meals have about 1,000 calories. MRE meals have around 1,250 calories. (Jim Slosiarek/SourceMedia Group News)

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By Mark Geary

CAMP RIPLEY, MINNESOTA – Hours of intense drills can physically drain a soldier. The MRE – or Meal Ready to Eat – fuels soldiers for their next round of training at Camp Ripley, Minnesota and will eventually nourish them on the battlefield.

“You need to stay hydrated and have food in you for your energy. Otherwise, you’re just going to die out there,” Private First Class Allan Billmeyer of the Delta Company 133 and from Postville said.

Each kit comes with a main course and a few snacks like M&Ms, pretzel sticks, cookies, crackers, scones and even chewing gum. Many contain more than 1,000 calories to help replenish nutrients lost during combat missions.

“The amount of stuff we’re doing and sweating…we need all the carbs we can get,” Private First Class Chris Mollicone of the 133rd HHC and from Clive said.

To get a warm meal out in the field, soldiers simply add a little water to the included pouch. In a few seconds, the water creates a chemical reaction. Minutes later, the entrée is hot and ready.

“You can actually use the heaters for more than that. You can use them for warmth,” Private First Class Ahren Blake of the 133 Delta Company and from Clinton said.

Every soldier has a different favorite.

“My favorite one would have to be chicken and dumplings,” Billmeyer said.

Lt. William Hayes of the 133 Delta Company and from Moline, Illinois said, “The tuna is by far the best.” Blake prefers the beef enchilada.

But, they all agree about the worst.

“The worst one would have to be the veggie omelet. You don’t want to eat that one,” Billmeyer said.

Many soldiers refuse to eat the veggie omelet. When the military hands them one after a long, hard day, they cringe.

Mollicone said, “The texture. The smell. The flavor. It’s just all around terrible…It’s not so much the taste. It’s the consistency.”

When you tear open the veggie omelet packet, a sour stench seeps from the package. Green vegetable speckles dot the squishy, orange substance inside. The meal looks like a thick piece of rotting, moldy orange Laffy Taffy. And, no, soldiers are not exaggerating. It tastes just as bad as they as they say it does.

“It just kind of crumbles in your mouth,” Hayes said.

Some soldiers say the food tastes like it has sat around for a decade. According to the National Guard, MREs have a guaranteed seven-year-shelf life. If kept under ideal temperature conditions, the meals can actually remain edible forever.
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