SSC-Natick Press Release
U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Natick, MA 01760-5012
Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
Date: June 20, 2003
Fast food for initial fight
NATICK, Mass. -- Stripping is routine for ground troops lightening their field ration load they carry into battle. The new First Strike Ration (FSR) should minimize if not save them the task while bumping up the nutrition they need for peak performance.
Still a development project of the Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., the FSR is a single package, high-energy, no-utensils-required ration that would be substituted for three packages of the venerable Meals, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) for forward-deployed troops in the first 72 hours of combat.
"About seven years ago, we said there has to be a better way to assess what items are being fieldstripped, ensure that these items contain the right nutrition level and condense the cube," said Betty Davis, Performance Enhancement and Food Safety Team leader and project officer for the FSR.
Three MREs totaling 3,600 calories were being shaved to 2,200-2,500 calories after soldiers had tossed out unwanted contents. Each FSR hits the target with about 2,300 calories.
The FSR is close to half the weight and volume of the MRE, which fits into the Army's goal of becoming lighter, leaner and more mobile as it transitions to the Objective Force. The FSR also cuts down packaging waste.
When the first concept was created two years ago, it was composed of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack pack, but Davis said the downfall was that each pouch opened the path for fieldstripping.
"Probably when the final version is in the field, soldiers will want to strip it because it's human nature, but in field tests, it has never been stripped," Davis said. "We have a great prototype FSR, but it's definitely going to be changing."
The latest prototype has proven so popular in evaluation that the U.S. Army Special Operations Support Command requested as many of the rations as the Combat Feeding employees could make in their Food Engineering Lab for shipment to Rangers deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Every food was selected for its ability to be eaten out-of-hand for troops on the move. From lessons learned from early concepts, the FSR has evolved into a single shrink-wrapped bag packed with a combination of familiar and new ration components.
It currently contains two shelf-stable pocket sandwiches but will soon contain three based on feedback, two flavors of miniature HooAH! nutritious booster bars, two servings of Energy Rich, Glucose Optimized (ERGO) beverage mix, a dairy bar, crackers or bread, cheese spread, two sticks of beef jerky, a package of dried fruit, a modified version of applesauce named "Zapplesauce," a Ziploc bag, and an accessory packet missing the tiny bottle of Tabasco sauce but including an extra wet napkin.
Barbecue chicken and barbecue beef are two varieties of pocket sandwiches now available, and Davis said that more varieties will be added as they are developed. The sandwiches are approved for the MRE and offer for the first time tidy sandwiches that don't require refrigeration.
The dairy bar, likely to be renamed "dessert" bar, is available in chocolate, peanut butter, mocha, banana nut, vanilla nut, vanilla and strawberry flavors. The extruded bar, without a home since it was created about a decade ago, has the consistency of fudge and provides milk protein.
"We took it off the shelf, revisited it and made it cheaper to produce," Davis said. "A number of people here are excited about it, and it could find its way into other rations, including the MRE."
Zapplesauce is one of the best-liked components, according to Davis. The product is made with extra maltodextrin, a complex carbohydrate, for sustained energy release.
Maltodextrin is also the key ingredient in ERGO, which tastes similar to a sports drink. It's intended to increase endurance by conserving glycogen, which is energy stored in the liver and muscles. The ERGO drinks packs will have a "fill-to" line so users easily know how much water to pour in.
Straws were desired but are not feasible, so other options, a spout fitment for example, are being investigated for easier drinking and may be available as technology changes, Davis said.
HooAH!, which is similar to commercial performance bars, comes in chocolate, peanut butter, apple-cinnamon, raspberry and cranraspberry flavors. HooAH! may be fortified with tyrosine or extra caffeine for performance enhancement depending on testing results with the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine.
Other possibilities for the FSR include breakfast-type pocket sandwiches, a protein drink or bar, high-performance energy gel and caffeinated sticks of gum.
The FSR has a shelf life of two years instead of three years at 80 degrees F because the rations don't have to be pre-positioned. They have to stay warmer than 20 degrees F to avoid freezing, and the warfighter will have to resort to another source to heat the food because no heater pack is included.
Davis said she expects the FSR to be ready for fielding by 2007.
For more information about the Soldier Systems Center, please visit our website at http://www.natick.army.mil.