NATICK, Mass. (Army News Service, Sept. 4, 2007) - A new compact, eat-on-the-move assault ration is well on its way to warfighters' hands.
"The First Strike Ration is intended for the first-on-the-ground, first-to-fight warfighter," said Barbara Daley, food technologist and FSR project officer, Combat Feeding Directorate, U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.
Usually when warfighters are issued two or more Meals, Ready-to-Eat they "field strip" them to lessen the bulk and weight they are carrying.
Personnel at NSRDEC found that not only were warfighters tossing what they considered extra weight, such as the flameless ration heater and Tabasco sauce, but they were also tossing food items. According to the Product Optimization and Evaluation Team at NSRDEC, if a warfighter is given 3,600 calories, he or she will often strip it down to 2,500 calories.
The FSR attempts to reduce this stripping by providing a lighter, smaller package with eat-on-the-go items that also enhance performance. These items are calorically dense and provide appropriate nutritional content and energy to warfighters for short durations of highly mobile, highly intense combat operations.
Items included in the FSR include pocket sandwiches, First Strike energy bars, Zapplesauce™-a carbohydrate-enhanced applesauce, high-energy drinks, pouches of tuna and chunk chicken, and caffeinated gum.
The FSR is designed to be about half the size of the three MREs it replaces and it provides, on average, 2,900 calories per day. "It is not intended to sustain the warfighter for long periods of time," Ms. Daley emphasized.
Because of its lower caloric content, the FSR is classified by the Office of the Surgeon General as a restricted ration. As such, it can only be used as a sole source of food for ten days or less in accordance with Army Regulation 40-25.
CFD conducted user evaluations on the FSR in Nevada and Germany in fiscal 2004, and in Afghanistan and Iraq in fiscal 2005. When compared with a field-stripped MRE in Iraq in 2005, more than 70 percent of Soldiers said the FSR was more convenient to carry and consume than the MRE.
"The best feedback we have received to date has been from warfighters participating in OIF/OEF in the mountains of Afghanistan and Iraq. They loved it," Ms. Daley said.
More than 6,500 FSRs have been used in theater in response to urgent requests by 25th Infantry Division and the Marine Corps, and modifications have been incorporated based on warfighter's feedback.
Lt. Col. David Exton, 25th Infantry Division, told CFD: "You have created something great here. Do not fail in this ration. Need to make these happen for the Soldiers who go outside the wire. Could not get enough of them into theater."
In July 2006, CFD conducted an operational test at Fort Bragg, N.C. With more than 100 Soldiers participating from an Airborne Infantry Battalion, one group consumed the FSR for three days while the other group consumed MREs for three days. Then the groups switched. From monitoring what the Soldiers ate and what they threw out, CFD saw less waste and greater consumption with the groups eating the FSR.
Based upon these successful tests, and the introduction of this ration in-theater, the demand for the FSR is immense.
In November 2006, a Joint Services Decision Board consisting of the Army, Marine Corps and Defense Logistics Agency approved the FSR for procurement and fielding.
NSRDEC was able to compress the acquisition process by nearly 30 percent while maintaining support for all other ration platforms in order to maintain the schedule of 3rd quarter fiscal 2007 procurement by Defense Logistics Agency/Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, with delivery in 4th quarter fiscal year 2007.