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Troops in Field Still Find Fault : 'Ready to Eat' Meals Join Army's Assault on Hunger

November 01, 1987|KEN FLYNN | United Press International

SOMEWHERE IN THE MOJAVE DESERT, Calif. — Chicken a la king for lunch, anyone?

In today's high-tech Army, with laser beams simulating live ammunition and computer graphics used in the critique of battle plans, the soldier in the field has not been forgotten.

Chicken a la king, meatballs with barbecue sauce, diced beef and other items as variable as the menu at Antoine's are offered as rations to the GIs engaged in realistic war games at the National Training Center in the Mojave Desert northeast of Barstow.

This is a touch of realism, all right," quipped one soldier, who asked not to be quoted. "It makes you long for the real world. It's what we're fighting for, to go home to a good meal."

1st Lt. Scott G. Beeler of Haddenfield, N.J., who is part of the Fort Bliss regiment training in the Mojave, said the meals are well-balanced and filling.

Better If Heated

"Actually," he said, "they taste better if they're heated, but that's not always possible in the situations we find ourselves."

Beeler was the maitre d' for a group of newsmen from El Paso during war games.

Sitting on the ground in the desert, in the shade of a Huey helicopter, Beeler tossed the plastic bag of rations and a carton of powered milk to the reporters. It was to be our only meal of a day that began at 6 a.m., and did not end until 9 p.m.

A gourmet meal it was not.

The chicken a la king had possibilities. Beeler offered to heat it by placing it on the manifold of the helicopter. But the chopper had cooled off by then.

Beeler was right about the rations. They were well balanced and filling.

As part of the package, another smaller plastic package inside contained tasty salt crackers and cheese, almost another meal in itself.

There was a candy bar, matches and a few other essential items. Dessert was a piece of fruit cake as delicious as anything that Grandma could cook. At least that's how it tasted to this reporter after a long day in the Mojave.

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