MRE; Near Bear

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Sat Jun 29 16:09:27 UTC 2002

> Developed by DOD to replace the old C-ration and other
> portable foods for soldiers.  The acronym came to
> public attention during Desert Shield/Desert Storn.
> Often "backronymed" to mean "meals refused by
> Ethiopians" or "meals refused by everyone".

MREs made their appearance in the early '80s (probably even late-70s given
how long DoD takes to develop things)--I ate my first one in 1984. My ROTC
unit in Pennsylvania was still using the old C-rations. When I spent the
summer of '84 at Fort Bragg, I had my first MRE--by that time the old
C-rations were gone from the regular Army. The first ones were really awful;
since then the menu selection has improved considerably and some of them are
actually quite good. The "meals rejected by Ethiopia" name stems from the
famines (remember Band-Aid and Live-Aid?) of the mid-80s and refers to the
poor quality of the early MREs.

Technically, MREs are "C-rations," although that name came to be
specifically associated with the older, canned individual meals in common
soldier parlance (MREs come in plastic packets and are often freeze-dried or
vacuum-packed). US Army field rations are either A, B, or C. A is fresh, hot
food; real eggs for breakfast (cooked to order if you had a good mess
sergeant), fresh vegetables, salad, etc. B rations are hot, but not fresh;
e.g., powdered eggs for breakfast. C are the individually packed meals that
don't require cooks or KP. A typical meal schedule for a training day is
A-C-A, hot breakfast and dinner with MREs for lunch. (The "C" in C-rations
does not stand for "canned" as many think.)

When I was leaving the Army in 1989, they were experimenting with
"T-rations." These were group, heat-and-serve meals in aluminium foil
trays--no cooks required. Each tray (hence the T in the name), were designed
to feed, IIRC, 12 soldiers. They were utterly inedible, unfit for human
consumption. They also came in really bizarre menu combinations. One
breakfast menu contained a tray of cherry of pie filling, no pie just the
filling! The only saving grace was that they came with copious quantities of
bread, peanut butter, and jelly. On days when we were scheduled to have
"T-rats" for breakfast and dinner (in place of A or B rations), we ate PB&Js
or pogey-bait bought at the PX. I don't know what happened to T-rats as I
left the army and never encountered them in civilian life. If they're still
around, they've probably improved in quality like MREs did.

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