If an army marches on its stomach, today’s troops are walking tall.
Field rations are more delicious, nutritious, and diverse than ever. In the U.S., meals ready to eat are developed at the Natick Soldier Systems Center. Food technologist Jeannette Kennedy says 30 million 1,300-calorie MREs—which can last 36 months at 80°F—are produced each year. In 1984, says retired Lt. Col. David Accetta, they were unvaried and unappetizing. The 24 tasty options today? “A huge improvement.”
In Afghanistan one French field ration used to be worth six U.S. meals in a swap. Now, thanks to a much improved U.S. menu, that’s reversed. Contents vary by country, but nutrition and nostalgia are universal. “MREs,” says photographer Ashley Gilbertson, “are what home tastes like.”
In the United States, MREs include items such as bread, Tabasco sauce, Skittles, Chiclets, spaghetti and meatballs, dried cranberries, pretzels, and cheese spread.
NOTE: FULL-DAY RATIONS ARE SHOWN FOR SOME COUNTRIES, SINGLE MEALS FOR OTHERS. MEALS DEPICTED MAY NOT REPRESENT ENTIRE CONTENTS OF FIELD RATIONS.