Marines in Afghanistan to get extra rations

After the release of a report that units in the Afghan mountains were starving, the service plans to field a new high-calorie, high-carbohydrate assault ration.

The Marine Corps plans to field a new high-calorie, high-carbohydrate assault ration to units operating in Afghanistan by the end of April, Maj. Stanley Weeks, director of the Marines’ food service and subsistence programs, told Federal Computer Week.

Weeks said the new First Strike Ration (FSR), which provides about 2,900 calories, can be used alone or to augment the standard combat ration, Meals Ready to Eat (MRE). FSR is intended to be consumed during the first 72 hours of intense conflict, Weeks added.

Weeks said Marines operating in Afghanistan already have access to a carbohydrate pack, a supplemental ration to MREs, which provides additional energy during intense, prolonged physical activity and highly stressful conditions. The pack provides about 400 calories, 75 grams of carbohydrates and several electrolyte beverages to prevent dehydration, Weeks said.

Besides fielding the FSR, Weeks said he will work with the Combat Feeding Directorate of the Army Soldier Systems Center to correct any nutritional problems with MREs that Marines deployed to Afghanistan experience.

The Marine Corps Center for Lessons Learned said in its January newsletter that because of the high-altitude, mountainous terrain in Afghanistan, Marines who conduct foot patrols there are not getting adequate nutrition.

As a result, “many Marines and soldiers lost 20 to 40 pounds of body weight during their deployment," the newsletter states. Weeks said that weight loss in high-altitude operations is to be expected until the body is acclimated to the new environment.

Energy requirements for high-altitude operations increase 15 percent to 50 percent above sea-level requirements, Weeks said. This altitude, along with cold temperatures and great physical activity, may increase energy expenditures to 4,500 to 6,000 calories per day, while the current MRE provides 3,600 to 3,800 calories per day, Weeks said.

Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the panel wants to determine whether the nutrition problems reported by center are “an exceptional case caused by the extreme conditions Marines endure in the Afghan mountains, or if this reflects a systemic problem with the meals we provide to our forces in the field.”

Skelton said Congress is committed to ensuring that troops have the support and equipment they need to fulfill their military mission. “If the Marine Corps needs help from Congress to correct this problem, the committee stands ready to assist," he said.

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