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The Road Less Traveled #2
MRE's and McGuire
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Note to new readers: The Road Less Traveled was a journal I started at 17 (2009) to document my experiences at West Point. I wanted to remember as much as possible. On occasion, I’ll share these journal entries here on Euphoric Recall—no edits or changes or additions or anything like that. If interested, you can read the first one here.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Prior to leaving for Fort Dix there were some occasions where we had very little time to eat, or maybe it was simply because they didn't feel like taking us to the DFAC. So instead of eating in the dining facility we would eat these little "box" lunches on the ground, or if we were in a particular hurry, on the move. Most times the box lunches consisted of stuff like those little ravioli cans, 2% milk, coconut cookies, and the occasional pop-tart which could be sold through the CC "black market" for literally $5 dollars. I quickly learned how to get over eating cold ravioli out of a can and drinking warm 2% milk.
But once we arrived at Fort Dix some two weeks later, we were no longer issued these box lunches when we were miles away from the DFAC or in a hurry. Instead we were issued MREs.
(Above is a picture of an unpacked MRE)
MRE stands for Meal Ready to Eat, and that's exactly what it is, except that most of the time (and contrary to popular belief) these things were like God-sends. The average MRE contains up to 3,000 calories, and each one had a different main course like beef stew, cheese tortellini, veggie burger, meat loaf and vegetables, pork ribs, beef enchiladas, chicken and dumplings, chicken breast, vegetarian pasta, and the universally hated veggie omelet, which was unanimously voted the worst "food" ever eaten by man. And you didn't have to eat anything cold (although most of the time we did due to lack of time) because each MRE had this little green bag with some kind of chemical powder in it that boiled when water was added. Along with the main course came what we called "boodles", or snacks, which was the best part, because depending on the meal you were issued (it was completely random) you could get stuff like cheese spread and crackers, wheat bread, a muffin top, pound cake (fantastic), peanut butter (awesome) and jelly, raisins, mango lemon apple sauce, Mexican rice and beans, cornbread stuffing, clam chowder, and wouldn't you know it, CANDY. Yes, candy. Some meals came with a little pack of skittles or M&Ms, which were truly gifts from above. MREs also came with various drink powders that you had to add water to like chocolate shakes (which had like 600 calories in them, so it was virtually impossible for them to taste bad), french cappuchinos, vanilla smoothies, fruit punch, spiced apple cider, and (my favorite) lemon lime powder. I found out the first time I had lemon lime powder that if you pour a small amount of water into it and mix it up ever so slightly, you can concoct what is essentially a tangy, lemon lime substance that could you could pass off as candy.
Wednesday, the day of the Crucible and the second to last day at Fort Dix, I was issued what I believe may be the best MRE ever put together: Cheese Tortellini. I opened it up and lo and behold, out fell a little bag of Reese's Pieces, easily the greatest thing that ever happened to me during BT. But that wasn't it. As I looked at the rest of the meal, I found something I didn't even know existed: chocolate peanut butter. O how I enjoyed the precious ten seconds it took me to annihilate that chocolate peanut butter. It was amazing. Anyway, then came "toffee cookies", pound cake, and my beloved lemon lime powder.
That was a great day. Not only did my squad and I do work in the Crucible early that morning (amazingly, we were the 4th squad in the whole battalion to do the Crucible. Some squads had to wait until 6 at night to even begin because of the amount of time it took to complete, so we were extremely fortunate to go early because the rest of the day was a walk in the park), I was issued the most beautiful MRE ever put together, and I had the knowledge that Fort Monmouth (which was comparable to a luxury hotel at the time) was only 1 day away.
Most of the time we were never given a sufficient amount of time to consume our whole MRE, and the majority of the time we were strictly forbidden to keep anything left over. But towards the end of our time at Fort Dix (maybe like the last 4 days or so) we were given such a small space of time to eat that we were told to grab what we could, stuff it in your pocket, and eat it if you had the time later in the day (which we never did). And that's basically how me and my buddy Mcguire managed to have an "MRE feast" the night before we left.
Mcguire is from Annapolis Maryland. Prior to Fort Dix, me and him never even spoke to each other despite being in the same platoon for 2 weeks, because number 1, you couldn't talk, and number 2, he wasn't in my squad. But the day we were moved into our barracks at Fort Dix we were grouped by roster number order, which meant Mcguire was in the same room as me, and as soon as the cadre left the room and told us to pick our bunks, me and him headed for the back right corner. This ended up being a great decision on our part because of the way the rooms were situated. There were 6 bunk beds in the room and in front of each pair of bunks were two 7 foot lockers for our stuff, and because we were in the far corner of the room our lockers concealed our bunks. In other words, there was no way to possibly observe what we were doing unless you walked all the way to the back of the room to find out. All of the other pairs of bunks had their lockers behind their beds, which meant they were fully visible to anyone walking by.
Anyway, me and Mcguire became fast friends. For one thing, he's hilarious. I can honestly say that he kept me sane during that week simply by making me laugh. He and I would spend every night before TAPs talking about stuff and laughing at how incredibly bad everything sucked. He would always pop off something like, "Dude do you realize we could be at home right now eating whatever we wanted? F my life." or "Dude, do not try going commando under your ACU pants, Sargent Duggard is a damn liar! My groin is on FIRE." Mcguire and I took comfort in wallowing in our misery together, and we made each other laugh, which is supposed to be healthy. Mcguire was like chicken noodle soup for my soul. Not only did he look like Ralphie from the movie "A Christmas Story" because he wore BCGs (the indestructible glasses issued out to those who needed them), he also played offensive tackle on his football team. Quick story about how he looks like Ralphie: Unfortunately for Mcguire, the cadre found out pretty quick that he bears a striking resemblance, so they made it a rule for him to say "Ooo fudge!" every time they called his name during BT.
But back to the MRE feast. So Mcguire and I both decided that we would try to save up all the extra food we could from our MREs until the night before the final day at Fort Dix, in which we would celebrate the nearing of the end of BT and our departure. And someway somehow we managed to pull it off. We collected enough heavenly items to prepare a feast that could rival a Thanksgiving dinner. We had everything from pound cake and skittles to lemon lime powder and clam chowder. We had peanut butter, wheat bread, cheese spread, crackers, meat loaf, chocolate shakes, Mexican rice, apple cider, fruit punch, apple sauce, blueberry pie (I still don't know how the hell he managed to get that), chocolate chips cookies, M&Ms, muffin tops, and a chocolate fudge brownie. And we absolutely destroyed every bit of that food. We made sure that we did our best to save these scrumptious items until that night so that the feast would be memorable, and although we struggled (I remember one night we actually resorted to eating the creamer packets for coffee mix that we had saved) we managed to collect enough for a noteworthy feast.
In short, MREs were worth their weight in gold. Not only did they sometimes come with stuff like candy and brownies, they also came with things like matches, moist towelettes, little packages of toilet paper (in case you had to take a dump in the woods), and coffee mix, which you never had time to make so you had to dump the mix into your mouth, take a swig of water, mix it around as best you could, and swallow. And although it tasted absolutely terrible, it was great for keeping you awake.
I can sum up the greatness of MREs with this short story: Towards the end of our time at Fort Dix, one Sargent from another platoon decided to have a "rewards smoke session", meaning he would purchase some kind of candy or give each cc something (nothing too expensive) if they managed to successfully complete all of the physical training he required them to do during the smoke session. To us, this was like the opportunity of a lifetime. The idea of being able to eat something that you had been craving for the past 3 weeks was extremely appealing. I put a lot of thought into back then and I decided that if I could have any "treat" it would have been a jar of peanut butter and 1 can of whip cream. Anyway, word spread about the list the Sargent collected from those who would be joining him for the smoke session. It included stuff like "1 package of Starbursts and Coke", "2 Mountain Dews", "Crispy Creme Donut", "Ice Cream", etc. And wouldn't you know it, some kid actually put down "1 MRE".