BY ROB SCHUETTE, Public Affairs
participated in a food-tasting test during their training at Fort
McCoy to help the Department of the Defense (DoD) decide its future
Soldiers from the 338th Engineer
Company conduct a taste test of Meals, ready-to-eat during a
the U.S. Army Natick, Mass., Soldier Systems Center DoD Combat Feeding
Directorate conducted the testing at Fort McCoy in mid-August.
given the opportunity to rate food served for breakfast, lunch and
dinner, said Mark Sharp.
Sharp is an
equipment specialist for the Operational Forces Interface Group of the
Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.
The center has
the mission to protect and sustain America’s military forces,
including the technology, research, development, engineering, fielding
and sustainment of the military’s food, clothing, shelters, air drop
systems and Soldier support items.
the most current menus versus test menus to have the Soldiers rate the
food," Sharp said. "For MREs (Meals, ready-to-eat), for
example, we use the current 24 MREs plus several test ones. Soldiers
help us determine the new items by rating the MREs. The ratings are
averaged out among the Soldiers."
Soldiers assigned to the 368th Engineer Battalion, an Army Reserve
unit from Londonderry, N.H., served as the test group for tasting one
week of breakfast, lunch and dinner meals, including hot meals, from
the new menu choices.
Sharp said the
unit was chosen because the commander agreed to have his group serve
as food testers. Units aligned to the 368th were at Fort McCoy
participating in the Patriot Warrior 2009 exercise.
Lt. Col. Steve
Grady, the 368th commander, said he volunteered his battalion units
for the test because it was a chance to help improve the menu
gives us a chance to help get better food for the people who will be
downrange," Grady said. "Including this food service in our
training helps it play out like a real-life (scenario)."
Soldiers from the 338th Engineer Company are
served a hot meal at Contingency Operating Location Freedom as
part of a food tasting test. (Photo by David J.
Maj. Karen Speckman of the 368th said Soldiers from the unit attacked
the food service survey with the same enthusiasm they had for their
other training missions.
Soldiers work long hours and getting good food helps them complete
their missions," she said.
Harrington said the testing is done on an annual basis at an Army
installation. Harrington is the project manager of the Fielded Group
Rations Improvement Project and works for the Group Rations Team, DoD
Combat Feeding Directorate.
The new food
items included in the testing all are tested in-house to ensure
quality products are used.
the first time we’ve done the test in the Midwest region,"
Harrington said. "It’s also the first time we’ve done it with
Army reservists, which is good because reservists have been deployed
and have experience (from that standpoint) with food rations."
Natick asks the Soldiers to have an open mind when they taste the food
and give honest feedback.
He noted the
procedure includes collecting the data, tabulating the results, and
deciding what foods received the highest ratings from the Soldiers.
recommendations from the Soldiers dictate what rations will end up in
the Army’s inventory. The MRE rations tested will help decide what
will be available to Soldiers in fiscal year 2012.
Soldiers were very upfront and brutally honest about the food,"
Sharp said. "They’re really good. That’s exactly what we want
Nielsen of the 338th Engineer Company, which is aligned with the
368th, said he believed the new MRE choices were better than the old
was really bland during the last training we had," Nielsen said
"I think they added spices, barbecue sauce and butter, which
makes it taste better."
Morrill of the 338th said the test MREs also included lemon shortbread
night was the best food we had," Morrill said. "Some things
have been good and some things not. The eggs were definitely
Darling of the 338th said the new MREs tasted better and many of the
food items in them "looked and tasted like real food."
Prescott, the head cook for the 338th, said the cooks had seen or were
familiar with many, if not most, of the new food items in civilian
life, and knew how to cook them.
great to have the opportunity to experience new rations," she
said "The troops really seem appreciative of the new items, and
are happy it’s not just the same old stuff. They were told in
advance this was going to happen, which also helped."