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CPT Mark Russelburg
Quartermaster Professional Bulletin – Summer 1992

The future of Army food is happening now at the Natick Research, Development and Engineering Center in Natick, MA. Home of the Department of Defense Food Program, the center is responsible for all research and development of new and improved food items and food service equipment for soldiers. The center analyzes the mission and then matches the requirements with nutritional desires and eating habits of today’s soldier.

Ration Improvement

The ongoing Soldier Enhancement Program (SEP) focuses on near-term improvements to the family of operational rations. Recently, the center has concentrated on improving the Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs) and tray pack rations. SEP funds accelerated testing and fielding of new food items without the delays of normal procurement cycles. SEP works closely with industry. As a result of SEP, soldiers can look forward to the following:

MRE New items
∙ Smoky franks with potato sticks
∙ Pork chow mein with chow mein noodles
∙ Wet pack fruit
∙ Additional commercial candies, such as Tootsie Rolls and Charms
∙ Retort pouch cakes

New MRE Supplements
∙ Flameless ration heater (packed with MRE in menu XIII)
∙ MRE pouch bread

Planned T-Ration Improvements
∙ Introduction of barbecue rib entree
∙ Introduction of chicken chow mein with oriental-style rice
∙ Extensive development of improved breakfast items

All of these new ideas were tested in the field recently during exercises at Pohaukoloha, HI, and Fort Leonard Wood, MO.

For Army Special Forces requirements for a lightweight, long-term patrol ration, the center developed the Ration, Lightweight, 30-day (RLW-30). Because each meal weighs less than one pound, the soldier can pack enough supply for most mission scenarios. The meals consist of dehydrated components such as freeze-dried entrees, bread crisps, cereal bars, desserts, dairy bars, beef jerky and beverages. The RLW-30 is available in six different menus.

Some soldiers may recall with great affection the Long Range Patrol (LRP) ration. Called the Long Life Ration Packet (LLRP), the successor to this ration, is currently in the developmental stage with field testing scheduled for 2d quarter of FY 92. The LLRP consists of a freeze-dried entree, cereal bars, cookie bars, candy and beverage. Plans call for producing eight LLRP menus.

Based on performance in Operation Desert Shield/Storm, the B-Ration has resurfaced as a desirable member of the family of rations. The Natick center is reviewing B-Ration specifications for identifying and implementing a series of B-Ration improvements.


Currently, the center is fielding its mounted ration heating device (MRHD). The MRHD allows soldiers in crew-served vehicles to efficiently heat MRE entrees. Dismounted soldiers now can heat MREs with Natick’s flameless ration heater (FRH). By adding a small amount of water to the FRH, a soldier can raise the temperature of an MRE entree by 100 degrees Fahrenheit in 12 minutes. The FRH is available through Class I (rations) supply channels.

Research and development continues on a containerized kitchen. The concept calls for a highly mobile, highly efficient way to feed 350 soldiers in the field a variety of quality meals from the family of operational rations. Natick is evaluating “off the shelf,” nondevelopmental mobile kitchens to perform the military field feeding mission. The Soldier Sustainment Module (SSM) program may one day complement or replace the Kitchen Company Level. In the future, a family of efficient, lightweight, multifuel equipment may provide the heating and refrigerating necessary for A-, B- and T-Ration preparation.

At the time this article was written in 1992:

CPT Mark Russelburg has a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Pennsylvania State University, University Park. He is also a graduate of the Quartermaster Officer Basic and Advanced Course, Combined Arms and Services Staff School, and Airborne School. His previous assignments include Accountable Officer, 26th Support Group, Heidelberg, Germany; Company Commander, 21st Maintenance Company, Korea; logistics Staff Officer, Pentagon; and Training With Industry, Marriott Corporation, Washington, D.C. He is currently the Army Representative, Joint Technical Staff. Department of Defense Food Program, Natick, Massachusetts.