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Sgt. 1st Class Robert Wilson goes for the bread and skips the lamb brains at a sheik meeting in Jurf-as-Sakhir, Iraq recently.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Wilson goes for the bread and skips the lamb brains at a sheik meeting in Jurf-as-Sakhir, Iraq recently. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

JURF AS SAKHIR, Iraq — Whenever 50 Iraqi sheiks get together for a discussion, expect plenty of food. Lunch usually includes lamb, rice flavored with raisins, and pita bread — all of which is eaten by hand.

Not being a wasteful people, the sheiks at Jurf As Sakhir served the lamb’s brains, which, like all foods that seem based on a dare, supposedly promote male virility.

Sgt. 1st Class Robert Wilson passed on the brains and stuck mostly to the pita. But Lt. Col. Timothy Newsome, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, went for it all. He piled a healthy chunk of brain in with his meat and rice pita sandwich.

“A little fatty, but it tastes pretty good,” Newsome said.

At least it was fresh, which is more than can be said for …

Food most foulLadies and gentlemen, the worst of the Meals, Ready to Eat, courtesy of soldiers from Company A, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment:

1. Veggie and cheese omelet. This was a unanimous decision. Each soldier said that if they get stuck with this meal, they would eat the side dishes and throw out the omelet. Why is it so reviled?

“I’ve seen somebody use it as a sponge. It soaked up water, too,” said Pvt. David McConkey of Salina, Kan.

2. Jambalaya. Most soldiers agreed that anything too creative in an MRE is probably bad. “It looks nasty. It tastes all right at first, but it’s the aftertaste,” said Pfc. Kenneth Purvis, of Myrtle Creek, Ore.

3. Cajun beans and rice. This was controversial. It had a few supporters, but ultimately made the “worst” list because soldiers said they know how good the dish tastes when it’s fresh.

There was no clear decision among some of the top meals: beef stew, chicken and noodles, and spaghetti. The winner was probably the tuna, “because it’s StarKist tuna. It’s actually real food,” said Spc. Andrew Crum of Ann Arbor, Mich.

But beyond that, “It’s like we know what we’re against, but we don’t know what we’re for,” Crum said.

A new classificationIf the Army ever opens up a military occupational specialty for “carnie folk,” Staff Sgt. Steve Hewitt just might have to reclassify.

Hewitt and others with the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division spent a few hours standing around in the frigid midnight air Monday, waiting for road clearing on their way to Camp Taji. Hewitt passed the time by guessing the height, weight and age of nearly everyone in the 14-vehicle convoy.

Hewitt had standards: He had to be correct within 2 inches on height, 5 pounds on weight and 2 years in age.

“It’s something I began doing five years ago, joking around in the motor pool,” said Hewitt, of Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment.

First came Spc. Zac Wirt, of Martinsville, Va.

Hewitt nailed his height on the dot and kept within his margin of error on the other stats.

Pvt. Jerred Kemp, of Gainesville, Fla., stepped up next, and Hewitt claimed another victory.

“He’s like a professional,” Kemp said.

Hewitt says he missed a few that night because so many people have lost weight during the deployment, but he estimates his success rate at about 90 percent.

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