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SSC-Natick Press Release

U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Kansas Street
Natick, MA 01760-5012

Contact:  Public Affairs Office

Date: December 27, 2007
No: 07-46

Combat feeding gets it just right with field feeding system

Personnel at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center's Combat Feeding Directorate are working to modernize the Air Force's Basic Expeditionary Airfield Resources (BEAR) field feeding system. In this photo, Airmen try out some of the modular food service equipment that is being evaluated as part of the BEAR modernization program. (Courtesy photo)

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NATICK, Mass. -- Working in the DoD Combat Feeding Directorate (CFD) at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center can have you working with BEARs. The personnel in CFD are working to modernize the Air Force’s Basic Expeditionary Airfield Resources (BEAR) field feeding system. 

“The Air Force is currently using an array of field kitchens and assorted equipment,” said John Ebert, equipment specialist, “many of which are still fuel-fired. The Air Force made a determination that they wanted to go to all electric and this program helps standardize the equipment to get them to that point.”

Going all electric has two main benefits. First, it improves safety by eliminating the need for fuel-fired items and it also helps with training. Most Airmen are trained on an electric kitchen and if they operate a fuel-fired kitchen in the field, then they have a learning curve to get up to speed on that kitchen.

The BEAR modernization program consists of two segments, said Ebert. The first is the BEAR-550 (Initial) or BEAR-550i. The BEAR-550i includes a new shelter system, portable flooring and modular food service equipment. The system is designed to feed Airmen in implements of 550 personnel and the kitchen can be fully assembled in less than four hours by a team of five personnel. In addition to the kitchen, the BEAR-550i includes 800 square feet of attached dining area which can accommodate the feeding of 550 Airmen for a sit down meal in a two hour period. With the addition of BEAR-550 (Follow-ons) or BEAR-550fs, the kitchen system can be expanded to feed up to 3300 personnel.

It is important for the BEAR to get up and running as quickly as possible because the Air Force requirement is that by day 10 in the field, hot meals are to be provided by Unitized Group Ration (UGR)-As and A-Rations, which include both fresh and perishable food items.

The Air Force identified a mobile shelter system that can support the implementation and buildup of the BEAR kitchen and dining facility. After extensive market research, testing, and evaluation, the Compact All-Weather Mobile Shelter Systems, CAMSS20EX, was selected. The CAMSS20EX was designed by the CAMSS Shelters Company as a replacement shelter for the TEMPER tent that is currently being used to support the BEAR kitchen and dining facility.

In addition, a new lightweight portable flooring system was evaluated by both CFD and Air Force combat training sites. This new floor system, called UltraDeck, replaces the current flooring system that consists of plywood sheets and lumber. Construction time in the field and weight and space during transportation will be reduced by having this new flooring.

An evaluation of all the food service equipment currently being used by the Air Force was also conducted. Standardization, construction and maintenance issues with each piece of equipment were looked at. The idea is to have food service equipment that will be robust, easy to maintain and clean, and save labor in the field.

“We followed the example of the personnel at CFD who work on Navy programs,” said Ebert. “Where they evaluate the food service equipment for shipboard use, we evaluated it for field use.”

Some of the items evaluated included:  portable hot and cold food serving counters, stainless steel tilt grills that are easy to clean, and stainless steel grills that maintain a uniform cooking temperature and are able to reduce cooking time by 40 percent.

A boilerless combi steam oven is one of the most innovative pieces of equipment that will be included with the BEAR. This oven can cook, proof bakery products, bake, steam, roast and grill, is simple to operate, and also self-cleans.

We wanted not just to do a consolidation of current BEAR kitchen assets, but to replace items with current state-of-the-art technology for the future BEAR system, Ebert said.

As part of the first phase of the program, a prototype of the new BEAR-550i was constructed at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The Air Force Red Horse Combat Training Squadron at Tyndall trains more than 10,000 personnel per year and was able to put the prototype BEAR-550i through its paces.

According to Ebert, the evaluation of the prototype and kitchen equipment has gone extremely well. Having direct feedback and input from the user was very helpful in determining how things worked and what needed improvements, he said. We got confirmation of some things that we thought would work, such as having a shelter opening large enough for a forklift to drive through or having modular items that you can even take outside to clean.

As of June 2007, the first phase of the BEAR program has been reached with a fully operational BEARi. Additionally, one of the goals for the entire BEAR program has also already been accomplished. That goal was to make the BEAR leaner and lighter than previous Air Force kitchens.

“The system is currently working great,” Ebert said. “We have reduced the amount of pallets needed to ship the system, and having standardized items will not only assist with training, but with maintenance and repair parts as well.”

The modular equipment really helps with this, he continued. Being able to fold up the legs on a counter not only helps with being able to easily move it around in your kitchen or dining hall, but it also reduces the amount of storage and transportation you need.

As part of phase two, a second prototype of the BEAR-550i is being constructed at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. Ebert said that the advantages of having the two sites are simple; the more feedback from users, the better the final product.

This second phase will include looking at additional equipment, such as mixers, combi ovens and a pressure-less steamer, items that could be enhancements for a field kitchen. We will also begin the integration of the BEAR-550f with the BEAR-550i at Dobbins to ensure that both the BEAR-550i and 550f systems integrate and work together.

“The BEAR field feeding system enhances the quality of life for Airmen,” said Ebert. “The Air Force is behind the program 100 percent.”

This page last updated on 10 May 2006.