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These ain't your daddy's MREs

Fort Sill_Would you eat something that has been cooked, stored in a warehouse, dropped out of a plane, and opened for you three years later?  Probably not.  But, soldiers needn't worry about palatability in 2008.  Today's "Meals Ready to Eat" (MREs) have new, tastier recipes.  This combat cuisine is designed to fuel soldiers who lug 100-pound backpacks all day, while the meals themselves last all year long. 

Army Medical Battalion Delta 264 trains for real life combat at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls.  They train to rescue wounded troops, avoid enemy fire, and how to eat on the run.  However, these MREs "ain't your daddy's rations."  Private First Class Timothy Wanke says that these modern MREs are more nutritious than the previous recipes.  "I got some crackers, a dairy shake, and I think this is some toffee crisp," he said.  "These are unbelievable compared to the other ones - these are gourmet meals compared to the last ones."

MREs replace every nutrient a soldier loses after a day of heavy work.  "It gives you all your carbohydrates," said Wanke.  "There's drink mixes that gives you all your electrolytes and proteins."  Perhaps more important, Military Dietician Michelle Collins says they're tasty.  "I had chili mac yesterday, and surprisingly enough, it's not too bad," she said. 

Collins says that each meal has one-third of the daily nutritional allowances that a soldier needs - nearly 1,250 calories per MRE.  It may seem like a lot of calories, but they need it.  "Active duty members are significantly more active than their civilian counterparts," said Collins. 

Another modern addition to the "mobile mess tent" - hot food.  Some MREs have heating elements inside which can warm to nearly boiling temperatures.  Add water, set it aside for about six minutes, and the food is ready to eat.  Last but not least is variety - there are now 24 different menu options - including a vegetarian meal.

7News Reporter Kenny Scarle sampled the baked chicken breast, and although it was pretty good, soldiers say that there are dishes that certainly are not.  "I try and stay away from the omelet," said Wanke.  "It doesn't really look like an omelet - it doesn't really taste like one either."  However, overall he says the MREs can't get much better.  "Not unless they could serve it on a plate in the air conditioning," he said.  "Other than that, I can't think of anything they could improve on.  It's all really good."

MREs are popular with some civilians, too.  They can be purchased at Army surplus stores, gun shows, and even on Ebay.

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