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Sam Newland, left, of the Natick Soldier Center tests a Meal, Cold Weather (MCW) ration in 115-degree weather in Iraq in June 2003. New menus for the MCW and Food Packet, Long Range Patrol rations have been developed with the help of solider taste-testers.
Sam Newland, left, of the Natick Soldier Center tests a Meal, Cold Weather (MCW) ration in 115-degree weather in Iraq in June 2003. New menus for the MCW and Food Packet, Long Range Patrol rations have been developed with the help of solider taste-testers. (Courtesy of Natick Soldier Center)

ARLINGTON, Va. — The next round of cold weather and reconnaissance rations may not include the “Burger King and beer” one soldier requested, but they will have freeze-dried ice cream bars, granola with blueberries, and other new delicacies.

Soldiers from the 51st Infantry Regiment in Darmstadt, Germany, helped scientists from the Soldier System Soldier Center’s Combat Feeding Directorate in Natick, Mass., test new menus for the Meal, Cold Weather (MCW) and Food Packet, Long Range Patrol (LRP) rations.

Thanks to the testers, the two kinds of rations will have new menus beginning with the government’s next big purchase, which will probably start in 2007, according to Vicki Loveridge, program manager for the directorate’s Special Purpose Rations program.

The only differences between the LRP and the MCW are package color — the LRPs are white — and the absence of a salt package in the cold-weather ration.

Each ration weighs only a pound, compared to 1.5 pounds for a Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE). Reducing weight is a priority for troops on cold-weather or high-intensity missions, Loveridge said in a Friday telephone interview.

The rations also have 200 to 300 more calories than MREs, with 1,540 calories per cold weather or assault package, Loveridge said.

More than 80 Long Range Surveillance troops from the 51st’s Company E evaluated the rations during June 2005 training in Grafenwöhr, Germany.

The two entrees that got the highest approval rating from Company E ere seafood chowder and spicy oriental chicken.

But the testers gave a thumbs-down to freeze-dried chicken teriyaki and other entrees that contained freeze-dried rice, Loveridge said.

The rice “does fine in hot water,” but tends to take too long to rehydrate in cold, although food scientists are working on the problem, Loveridge said.

And cold water is what the Company E soldiers tested all the entrees with, because “we don’t have hot water on real-world missions,” one soldier explained in the comments section.

“Troops who use LRPs don’t want any kind of heat signature,” Loveridge said, noting that one soldier told her, even “heat tabs give off a strong odor and give our guys away.”

Heat tabs are small, lightweight cubes of Trioxane to be set underneath a camp stove or makeshift canteen stand and lit with a match. They produce a very hot flame.

Other test items that made the grade included trail mix, peanut butter and banana walnut dessert bars, chocolate peanut butter, pizza cheese spread, smoked almonds, dried-fruit cranberries and brown sugar toaster pastry.

The most popular snack: candy-coated chocolate-covered coffee beans, Loveridge said.

The new rations also will include “lots of dairy shakes,” especially the popular flavors of strawberry and chocolate, as well as fruit, lemon-lime and orange-flavored sports drinks.

All the drink mixes will be packaged in a new zippered drink pouch that the testers loved because it is easy to drink from and doesn’t require mixing (and messing up) in a CamelBak or water bottle, Loveridge said.

Although orders for the rations have increased since the start of the missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, many Army and Marine Corps procurement officers still aren’t aware that MCWs and LRPs are readily available through the same channels used to order MREs, Loveridge said.

Another “sticking point” that hinders wider use of the rations “is the myth that you need extra water” for dehydrated rations, Loveridge said.

In fact, “your body doesn’t care whether it’s getting its daily water requirement in food, or from a water bottle. It’s irrelevant,” as long as enough total water makes its way inside, she said.

Supply officers can order the rations, which come in cases of 12, using these National Stock Numbers:

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