COLUMBIA, S.C — South Carolina National Guard Soldiers conducted two days of training Oct. 20 to 21, 2018 at the Bluff Road Armory fielding the new Assault Field Kitchen.
Soldiers from the 1178th Forward Support Company and 122nd Engineer Battalion were introduced to the new pieces of equipment and trained on proper setup and usage of the kitchen. Training included unloading, unpacking, setting up and using the equipment, then, taking down, repacking and reloading the equipment per the training manual.
“Our goal for the Soldiers is to take this lesson and be able to do a quick turn around and prepare a meal without refrigeration,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Debra Hayes, the Department of Labor Food Services Expert. “They should also be able to use Unitized Group Ration Heat and Serve Meals, which are pre-packaged, pre-prepared, shelf-stable foods.”
The training was provided by TACOM Materiel Fielding and Training, part of the Army’s Life Cycle Management Command, whose mission is to deliver sustainable readiness by operationalizing essential functions at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels. TACOM provides support across the life cycles of vehicles and other major equipment, which ensures the Army is capable of perform its missions.
Unlike the previous rations cooks used with the Mobile Kitchen Trailers of the past, these meals are pre-prepared, so they are quicker to make and dramatically reduce the time needed to prepare a meal.
“The old A- rations had to be cooked, which could take up to 4 hours,” said Hayes. “These rations just need reheating and can be prepared in 45 minutes to an hour. So it is a huge time saver. The previous rations also required refrigeration, where these current meals do not.”
Comparatively, the new rations also save manpower and cost over previous rations. Instead of needing a minimal crew of four to setup and prepare a meal, this system can run with a minimum of two Soldiers. These rations are also expected to boost Soldier morale in the field by providing a hot, nutritious meal in a variety of flavors.
“Most Soldiers enjoy a hot meal rather than MRE (Meal Ready to Eat),” said Hayes. “With the AFKs, cooks can provide that for them. And, this provides Soldiers with nearly 15 different meal options compared to only 12 with an MRE.”
However, unlike an MRE, these group atios do not come with an operational enhancements. But Hayes said these items could be ordered and provided.
“Even though it’s not a part of the group meal, we will provide them for the Soldiers to provide a complete meal,” said Hayes. “Bread and Milk are mandatory supplements. Ensuring we provides these will ensure we are complying with AR 40-25 Nutrition and Menu Standards.”