Braley Presses Pentagon on Ending Breakfast for Troops Serving in Afghanistan

Jan 17, 2013 Issues: Defense and National Security

*Image courtesy of CNN.com

CNN: Army: Hot breakfasts in Afghanistan cut due to logistics, not budget

CNN.com
January 30th, 2013
11:30 AM ET
 

Nutritional experts have long lauded breakfast as the most important meal of the day, but reports that 17 military bases stopped serving hot breakfast have one congressman up in arms.

On January 17, Congressman Bruce Braley wrote to Secretary of the Army John McHugh to express his concern. According to Jeff Giertz, Communications Director for the United States Congressman's office, he was prompted to do so after being contacted by the mother of one of his Iowa constituents who is serving abroad in Afghanistan.

"I am troubled that the Army would deny any deployed troops three meals per day, regardless of force size," Braley wrote in the release.

“These men and women put their lives on the line every day to protect the very freedoms we cherish. The exhaustive mental and physical labor that is required by soldiers to fight in harsh and unforgiving conditions is tremendous. We shouldn’t deny our troops something as fundamental as a proper meal."

As of publication time, Braley had not heard back from the Army Secretary.

While Braley and the mother were concerned that the troops weren't getting adequate nutrition, Army officials note that is simply not the case.

In a statement released by the Department of Defense, Jim Garamone of the American Forces Press Service said the reports surfaced "from a few forward operating bases in eastern Afghanistan's Paktika province that are closing or being turned over to Afghan security forces."

Colonel Joseph Wawro, the commander of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, said breakfast and the midnight meal are now MREs (Meal, Ready-to-Eat) at the affected bases, while lunch and dinner are still served hot. He also noted most dining facilities have take-away items like cereal, granola, energy bars, milk, juice, fruit, etc. for supplemental snacking.

"This has absolutely nothing to do with the national budget and everything to do with our responsible reduction of forces," Wawro said.

Wawro said the initial complaint may have been raised by a recently arrived unit that was unaware of the recent meal changes.

Giertz, however, noted that Braley wrote the letter out of concern for the troops’ morale.

"The least we can offer is to get them a good meal," Giertz said.

Registered dietitian and Captain Christina Deehl said while MREs are not very popular among the troops, they do yield all the nutrients a soldier needs to meet one-third of his or her Military Recommended Daily Allowance (MRDA).

"When we initially entered Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers were eating MREs every day until we were logistically established. Once again when we draw down and pull out, we will see a similar trend," Deehl said.

Deehl explained that army dietitians regard food as a tactical weapon, as it maintains mental and physical performance.

"We would never deprive the soldier of adequate nutrition and that's just all there is to it," she said.

What’s in an MRE?

According to the United States Armed Forces, a MRE provides an average of 1,250 calories (13 percent protein, 36 percent fat, and 51 percent carbohydrates) and one-third of the Military Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamins and minerals. It includes the following items:

  • Entree – the main course, such as spaghetti or beef stew
  • Side dish – rice, corn, fruit, or mashed potatoes, etc.
  • Cracker or bread
  • Spread – peanut butter, jelly, or cheese spread
  • Dessert – cookies or pound cakes
  • Candy – M&Ms, Skittles, or Tootsie Rolls
  • Beverages – Gatorade-like mixes, cocoa, dairy shakes, coffee, tea
  • Hot sauce or seasoning – in some MREs
  • Flameless Ration Heater – to heat the entree
  • Accessories – spoon, matches, creamer, sugar, salt, chewing gum, toilet paper, etc.

 

Braley Presses Pentagon on Ending Breakfast for Troops Serving in Afghanistan

17 bases in Afghanistan have suspended serving troops breakfast; more bases will stop on Feb. 1

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today wrote Army Secretary John McHugh to express “growing concern” regarding Army actions that have ended service of breakfast to American troops serving at 17 US military outposts in Afghanistan.

Braley has also been informed by the Army that this policy will be expanded to more locations in Afghanistan beginning on February 1st.

“I am troubled that the Army would deny any deployed troops three meals per day, regardless of force size,” Braley wrote.  “These men and women put their lives on the line every day to protect the very freedoms we cherish. The exhaustive mental and physical labor that is required by soldiers to fight in harsh and unforgiving conditions is tremendous. We shouldn’t deny our troops something as fundamental as a proper meal.

“I am positive that with the logistical mastery the Army has exhibited in combat operations around the world, you can logistically administer the procedure of serving breakfast every day.”

The issue was brought to Braley’s attention by concerned family members of Iowa soldiers serving in Afghanistan.

Letter to Secretary McHugh

January 17, 2013

The Honorable John McHugh
Secretary of the Army
101 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310-0101

Dear Secretary McHugh,

I am writing to you today with growing concern regarding recent reports of servicemen and women deployed in Afghanistan not receiving breakfast.

Recently, it has come to my attention that certain bases in Afghanistan have stopped serving breakfast to our deployed troops. I have been informed by a U.S. Army representative that 17 locations in Afghanistan have enacted this meal strategy. Instead of breakfast, the soldiers are now receiving MRE’s.

The reasoning behind this change has been described to me as moving from “a sustained presence feeding concept to that of an expeditionary feeding concept.” I am troubled that the Army would deny any deployed troops three meals per day, regardless of force size. These men and women put their lives on the line every day to protect the very freedoms we cherish. The exhaustive mental and physical labor that is required by soldiers to fight in harsh and unforgiving conditions is tremendous. We shouldn’t deny our troops something as fundamental as a proper meal.

I am positive that with the logistical mastery the Army has exhibited in combat operations around the world, you can logistically administer the procedure of serving breakfast every day.

Additionally, I was also informed that this policy will be expanded to more locations in Afghanistan starting February 1, 2013. I do not see any reason why this has to be the case. The greatest military in the world should have the capacity to adequately service the basic needs of its fighting force.

I urge you to reverse this policy and swiftly reintroduce breakfast for our men and women serving in uniform abroad. Thank you for your time and consideration regarding this matter and I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Bruce Braley

 

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