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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: January 11, 2008
No: 08-02

Local Soldier visits Combat Feeding personnel to offer his thanks

NATICK, Mass. -- On Dec. 19, Sgt. John Blood, Jr., of the 5/73 Recon of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division and his father, John Blood, Sr., visited the Combat Feeding Directorate (CFD) at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) to offer their personal thanks for CFD's assistance in improving Soldiers' meals during a deployment in Iraq.

The younger Blood, assigned to Fort Bragg, N.C., was in Iraq between August 2006 and October 2007. During this time, due to the nature of his missions, he ate a lot of Meals, Ready-to-Eat (MREs). "The chow hall would not always be open when we returned from our missions," he said, "and we would go to have MREs only to find out that they were spoiled."

Originally the Soldiers were not even aware of the time/temperature indicators (TTI) on the MRE cartons. TTIs link the quality of the ration to the time and temperature since it was packed. TTIs consist of an outer reference ring and an inner circle. The inner circle darkens with time, and darkens more quickly as the temperature increases. The quality of food products is very dependent on the time and temperature of storage, so the darker the circle, the less fresh the food.

MREs that were stored in conexes in the heat of the Iraqi desert were deteriorating quickly and it soon got to the point where the Soldiers would be happy if they only saw a gray ring on the TTI, knowing that the MREs with black rings would be spoiled.

"We were eating MREs 80 percent of the time," Blood Jr. said, "and sometimes all we would be able to have from an MRE was the pound cake because it doesn't get rotten."

He wrote home to ask his family in Hudson, Mass., to send him food. "Chicken packets, tuna packets, which I would get via mail, were the best."

When his father heard about the problems with the MREs, he contacted CFD to see if there was anything they could do to assist with the problem.

Gerald Darsch, director of CFD, contacted personnel to ensure that the MREs stored in the conexes were being inspected by the U.S. Army Veterinary Service.

The younger Blood said that although he never saw the personnel come by, he heard that they visited his forward operating base. "I don't know what you did," he said, "but after that something changed [for the better] around there. I appreciate all you did."

While visiting NSRDEC, both Bloods got to see some of the upcoming projects to help out the Soldier in situations such as these.

The younger one was excited to see the chicken packets he enjoyed so much will be a part of the First Strike Ration (FSR). "Often we had no time and were eating on the go." The FSR would fit in perfectly for these missions.

They also saw the Unitized Group Ration - Express (UGR-E), sometimes called the 'kitchen in a carton.' The UGR-E is a compact, self-contained and self-heating module that provides a meal for approximately 18 personnel with no field kitchen, no cook and no fuel. Blood Jr. thought his group could have definitely benefited from the UGR-E. Many times a smaller group would need to break off from a larger one, he said, and having something like this for them to take along would have been very useful.

They also heard about constraints, such as shelf-life and nutrition content percentages, that CFD has to work within.

"When I was in my field training, I loved MREs," the younger Blood said. "They were never a problem until I was over there [Iraq]."

Both Bloods say they are grateful for the help that CFD provided.

This page last updated on 10 May 2006.