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April 12, 2005

Recipe for an MRE*

*as in “Military Readiness Exercise”—not as in “Mummified Ration Enclosed”

Before the troops go anywhere, the Army spares no expense in acclimatizing and familiarizing them to the weather and terrain in which they will be operating. The "final exam" for deployment, designed to test the mettle of the men and the skills of the staff is the Military Readiness Exercise. F'r example:

Troops assigned to the Middle East for scheduled summer deployment are trained at Fort Dix, NJ, in the dead of winter; troops going to spend the winter in the Bosnian central plateau went to Fort Polk, LA, in July.


1. Place eight 100’X40’ circus tents (festively striped in yellow/green or white/green) in the center of a 2,000-acre bowl named COMANCHE. Add three Task Forces totaling 1,300 people (1,275 male and 25 female), a Mobile Field Kitchen and stir. Marinate in a hurricane for five days and residual six-hour thunderstorms for an additional two weeks.

2. Sprinkle in hot-and-cold running flies, mosquitoes, chiggers, ticks, black widow and brown recluse spiders, scorpions, snakes and three-inch cockroaches that bite. Fold in rainbow-hued mold spores and a zillion frogs that will only eat butterflies. Shake constantly to insure that the spiders have unimpeded access to duffel bags and cots.

3. Remove flavor and caffeine from coffee concentrate and place them aside for later use. Maybe.

4. Add mud that sticks like Superglue and twenty Porta-Pots. Remove the toilet paper from half of the twelve Porta-Pots designated “Male” in order to encourage paper conservation. Place the now-excess toilet paper in the remaining eight designated “Female Only” in order to encourage basic personal hygiene. Instruct contractor to clean “Female Only” facilities twice daily and “Male” facilities only on odd-numbered days. Add eight field showers and designate half of them “Female Only.”

5. Separate Division Headquarters into two distinct halves and sever all direct links to any remaining chain of command. Remove all headquarters staff personnel to another location named EAGLE (a mile away if you take the shortcut through the swamp or five miles away if you follow the road) and house them in air-conditioned barracks with four contract mess halls, three launderettes, two PX MiniMarts, one Cajun snack bar and seventy assorted vending machines; remove all COMANCHE vehicles (with the exception of several M-1A1 tanks in desperate need of a lube-job) and send them to EAGLE. Padlock the steering wheels and bury the keys.

6. Insure all Headquarters staff personnel e-mail vague instructions “for immediate implementation” to COMANCHE counterparts and then depart for a two-hour lunch. Instruct commo personnel to disconnect TacLAN the instant any incoming COMANCHE e-mail is detected.

7. Sift a Recycle Nazi into COMANCHE who insists that all trash be separated into one of six different recycling categories; insure he studiously ignores the fact that all collected trash winds up in the same 65 cubic-yard open-top dumpster, where it is compacted by its own weight into a cohesive, albeit gooey, mass. Spray dumpster with Viagro for Houseflies™ and park it midway between the Porta-Pots and the Mobile Field Kitchen to provide the flies a rest area in their commute between the two. Leave the dumpster there for three weeks. Uncovered.

8. Advance all scheduled events by between 5 and 24 hours; tell no one until 5 minutes after the new event-time, then issue conflicting orders for immediate implementation to each separate Task Force and depart for a two-hour lunch. Chill the non-potable water in the field showers to 50°F and warm the potable water in the ‘buff to 115°F.

9. Grate everyone’s nerves.

10. Place 50% of all COMANCHE Task Force personnel on the Night Shift and remove mufflers from all generators within 100 meters of the tents; this will insure that, between the noise at night and the heat during the day, nobody will get any sleep worth mentioning.

11. Hold 0900-1100 Task Force briefings and 1500-1700 Task Force AARs at Division Headquarters every day; complain loudly that half the occupants of EAGLE have the sniffles because the air-conditioners are permanently set at 65°F.

12. Insure no one in either section of the Division staff answers any COMANCHE-generated e-mail between 0700 to 0900, 1100 to 1300 and 1700 to 0700.

13. Bake at 98°F and baste at 97% humidity. Garnish with twelve genuine Bosnians, who walk around explaining to anyone still conscious, "Bosnia is *not* like this. This place makes Sniper Alley look like nude beach." Issue brand-new black berets to 70% of authorized personnel for mass "Happy Birthday Army" photo op. Insure that 60% of berets are PX Kiddie Korner rejects (too small), 39% are the size of DeLorenzo “Grandissimo” bar pies, and the remainder are issued to people who are unalterably convinced that the beret is supposed to be worn with the flash centered 6” above the highest point on the left ear. Have all personnel fall in on the runway just as the UAV begins its final approach.

14. Serve on soggy cardboard trays decorated with multicolored mold spores. Separate leftovers into six different recycling categories, place them in the open 65 cubic-yard dumpster and mix well. Add the caffeine removed from the coffee concentrate in para 3 in order to keep the flies completely wired.