Basic Camp

Cadets get real taste of the military with MREs

MREs contain a variety of items. This one included crackers and peanut butter. Photo by Michael Noble Jr.

MREs contain a variety of items. This one included crackers and peanut butter. Photo by Michael Noble Jr.

By Sydney Callis
Leader’s Training Course

The Army is loaded with abbreviations and acronyms. However, only one of those acronyms gets either the salivary glands or gag reflex working.

MREs, or Meals Ready-to-Eat, are the go-to dining option for Cadets and Soldiers when they are in the field.

“When we don’t have time to go back to the dining facility, we usually eat MREs,” said Alpha Company Cadet Dashiauna Washington, a student at University of Notre Dame. “The first time I ate one, it was kind of weird. But they’re not that bad overall. The Sloppy Joe is really good.”

Each meal package includes an entrée, a side dish, a dessert, crackers or bread, cheese, peanut butter or jelly, a beverage kit and a microwave component to cook the food.

“Some are really bland, but it does fill you up and keeps your appetite under control,” said Alpha Company Cadet Christopher Baxter of Virginia Union University. “The Asian pork rib is my favorite because it actually tastes like a pork rib.”

First introduced in 1975, MREs have been continually developed and altered to improve taste, nutrition and add more variety to the meals. Some of these new varieties include Kosher and vegetarian options.

With all of the contents in a package, the calorie count in the meals exceeds more than 1,000 because they tend to be eaten during high-activity training where the calories are being burned off quickly. Although the high calorie count provides lasting energy for Cadets and Soldiers, it doesn’t appeal to everyone.

“I try not to eat the whole thing because it’s a lot of calories,” Washington said.

When the time comes to eat the MREs in the field, Cadets barter to get their favorite meals or just get a different side of dessert.

“You get tired of them really quick so you try to get a different one each time. Everyone wants the beef stew, and nobody wants the beef fajitas,” Washington said. “I give away my M&M’s because I don’t like chocolate.”

The different sides and desserts can be a source of jealousy among Cadets, said Delta Company Cadet Austin Vaught of Marion Military Institute in Alabama.

“People tend to be stingy with what they get if it’s good,” Vaught said. “Usually, people get crummy trail mix or something and someone will end up with a bag of Skittles, and people always get really jealous of that.”

Although some Cadets don’t enjoy eating the sometimes bland and always high calorie meals, Cadet Jhereg Fillmore of Utah State University, said MREs evoke a different emotion for him: a feeling of familiarity.

Fillmore’s first experience with MREs came in Peru, where he spent a year and a half serving as a missionary for Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints.

 “Some American Navy guys came to Peru for humanitarian work, and they were feeding us lunch and gave us MREs,” Fillmore said. “It was just so good to taste American food again. So, ever since then I’ve just loved MREs because it’s like a little piece of home.”

Like Fillmore, Vaught came to the course having eaten the meals. He and his father, a former sailor, eat MREs when camping.

“I’ve been told that MREs are kind of tasteless, but they taste pretty fine to me,” Vaught said. “It tastes like anything else you’d cook in a microwave.”


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