Things I Learned From The Army

Things I Learned From The Army

By Brandon Hunt

I am a veteran…

And I look back and see how the years have blown by like the sands of the desert, and I find myself on the distant side of memory. Though I can’t recall all of the specifics, some Army experiences left an indelible impression. 

I only spent six years in the Army and I’m not a former Special Forces guy. Mostly I’m just an average guy who joined the National Guard in 2000, became a combat engineer, was deployed, learned a few things and moved on.

I feel that much of what I learned fits well with emergency/survival preparation. Now that I work for Emergency Zone, a preparedness company, I thought it would be helpful (I hope) to share experiences and knowledge I gained from my military time. 

One Thing I Learned

So, here’s one thing I learned from the army; MREs aren’t too bad. And they make great emergency food.

I think most people have the impression that army food is bad.

And they’re mostly right. Sorry to the army cooks out there.

The MRE on the other hand is different. It’s food, for sure, but I like to think of it as a different kind of food, the essence, the epitome of survival food. 

Designed For The Field

There’s quite a history to the development of MREs, but suffice to say that beginning in the late 70’s large-scale testing began around the rations soldiers ate.

All that testing and evaluation on rations eventually lead to the development of MREs. Food that was compact, sealed, easily carried, and dense enough in calories to sustain a soldier out in the field.

The MRE was widely consumed during Operation Desert Storm. Originally the MRE was meant to be eaten for ten days or less. However, soldiers ate MREs for 60+ days during Desert Storm, which prompted more menu changes and additions. 

By the time I was involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom in early 2003, the MRE menu offered 24 options, and included a nice taste of home with items like Skittles, or small bottles of Tabasco sauce.

My personal favorite was the Chicken and Salsa MRE. I even created my own recipe with it. I would open the chicken and salsa, add in crumbled crackers, squeeze in the cheese from its pack, and then mix it all together. Doesn’t sound great, but it tasted good.

Improvise and make do with what you have, right?


Add To Your Food Storage

Sometimes when I returned home from a drill weekend and I had an extra MRE, I would add it to the food storage shelf. 

MREs have about a five year shelf life. So, you can keep it around for a bit.

I wouldn’t plan a complete food storage system based on MREs. 

Adding a case or two of MREs to an existing food storage is not a bad idea though. Think of them as something you can grab in a hurry, if the situation demands it.

They’re also great for adding to Go-Bags, backpacking, hunting, and emergency food for your vehicle. Because they pack a lot of calories in one MRE, you can reduce the amount of weight you carry. You can go even further if you pare down the MRE and take only what you want.

The other thing I like about the MRE is the flameless heater. No flame required for cooking. The heater is a water activated pouch. Just place your sealed food in the pouch, pour water in, and let the chemical heating action take place. Quite cool and handy.

Still, if you’re inclined, or don’t have time, or whatever the reason, you can eat the MRE cold.

For emergency preparation, I recommend adding at least one case to your storage system. The MRE is quite versatile: it stores well,  you can eat it hot or cold, all the food is sealed, and it’s easy to pack and carry.

The Challenge

I’ll conclude with something we liked to do back in the day. It’s called the Peanut Butter and Cracker Challenge. All you have to do is try to eat the peanut butter and crackers from an MRE, without taking a drink of water...until you’ve eaten it all. Nothing to it, right?

So, have fun, and I’ll be back with another thing I learned from the army. 

And if you choose to take up the challenge, please post the results in the comment section.





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