Feeding the U.S. Army Sixth Infantry Division (Light) in the Cold
Thomas J. Lange1
For generations cold weather and extreme cold weather have altered the outcome of the best laid military plans. Conflicts between nations that took years to resolve involved sustaining armies during the winter months. Commanders of the past moved forward utilizing instinct, persistence, and the undying drive to succeed. Often, the logistics of resupply and keeping the Army fed and warm were the greatest threat, not the enemy.
Decades of extensive research and development have greatly improved commanders' ability to accomplish their missions. Due to the fall of the Soviet Union as a threat and the current philosophy of downsizing U.S. forces, today's commanders are required to accomplish their missions with less
equipment and personnel. Military personnel today are highly trained, and equipment is state of the art.
The instruments of death have been developed and utilized with great success. Instruments to sustain the life support systems of U.S. soldiers on the modern battlefield must keep pace with these changes. Following World War II great strides were made through the development of a doctrine to improve the "Quality of Life" of U.S. soldiers. Since that time, there has been a continued emphasis on improving food, apparel, and other supplies and logistics for the soldier.
Harsh winter environments require detailed planning, coordination, and troops that are physically hardened and trained. Flexibility, maneuverability, and the use of equipment are all reduced in the cold, while logistic, engineering, subsistence, and medical problems increase dramatically. Winter creates physiological stress on the individual, and the additional weight of winter clothing, sleeping bags, and rations combine to reduce individual and unit mobility. "Survive, move, fight!" is the moxie of winter warfare.
THE U.S. ARMY FAMILY OF RATIONS
Foodservice equipment to support and service a family of rations has been developed under the auspices of the U.S. Army. Examples of this equipment include the Mobile Kitchen Trailer (MKT) and Kitchen Company Level Field Feeding equipment (KCLFF). Rations supported through these kitchen units include menus of A Rations; B Rations; Meal, Ready-to- Eat (MRE); Ration, Cold Weather (RCW); and Food Packet, Long-Range Patrol II (LRP[II]).
Feeding the right meal, at the right place, and at the right time is the ultimate goal of the Army feeding program. The U.S. Army has had a field feeding standard of providing all soldiers with one MRE and two hot meals per day (U.S. Department of the Army, 1991a). The hot meal has been primarily the T Ration. This standard has also allowed for two A Ration meals in a 7-d period. The standard was regarded by field commanders as a prescription that dictated the contents and timing of meals, rather than as a policy or guideline for overall nutrition. They felt that the standard failed to offer them the flexibility they needed to modify feeding schedules within their own commands in response to the demands of particular situations.
At that same time, the U.S. Army Quartermaster Center and School was aggressively pursuing a revised feeding standard that would provide the commander with the flexibility needed to ensure that all soldiers on the battlefield were provided the right meal, at the right place, and at the right time (U.S. Department of the Army, 1991a). A revised feeding policy was written, which simply states that field commanders have the responsibility for providing their soldiers with three quality meals per day. This revised feeding
policy (U.S. Department of the Army, 1990) was approved for implementation in November 1990 and was successfully executed.
To support the revised feeding policy of three quality meals per day, the commander has available to him a family of rations that is built on individual and group rations. The primary individual ration is the MRE, and the group rations include unitized T Rations, unitized B Rations, and A Rations.
The RCW is a unique individual ration that is used in arctic environments and that includes six menus containing three entrees, several snacks, and numerous hot drinks (U.S. Department of the Army, 1989). Little preparation of the ration is required by the soldier. The RCW is lighter and smaller than three MREs and contains approximately 4,500 kcal per daily ration menu with a nutrient content designed to conserve body water. The packaging cannot be damaged by temperatures below freezing, and it is flat, flexible, and waterproof. Although the RCW was designed to be totally self-contained, there have been training exercises in which additional food items have been included (primarily prepared soup and coffee). MREs have also been used as a daily ration in arctic environments; they must be supplemented with additional ration items to be nutritionally adequate.
Soldiers with the Alaska Army National Guard ("scouts")2 who operate out of the most remote villages have experienced problems feeding their troops. Past generations of Alaskan scouts were hardened veterans of extreme cold weather, and they ate off the land. Their diet consisted of seal and polar bear. As these older scouts retired and were replaced by younger scouts, it was found that the replacements could not sustain themselves as had their predecessors, who had more of the skills needed to live off of the land. To update the scouts' diet to Army standards that would be supported with the state-of-the-art "family of rations," the Alaska Army National Guard's suggested immediate solution was to use the RCW. Two problems occurred with its use, however, which made replacement of the RCW necessary. First, the RCW was still a dramatic diet change for the younger troops. Most scouts had been exposed to MREs and preferred the MRE to the RCW. Second, the RCW required more water for consumption because all components are dehydrated or vacuum packed. Today, scouts in Alaska consume MREs with supplements, and additional bottled water is air dropped at predetermined locations.
EQUIPMENT PROBLEMS: THE MOBILE KITCHEN TRAILER
Under U.S. Army doctrine (FM 10-23, 1991), the Mobile Kitchen Trailer (MKT) is used in all areas and under all climatic environments for military operations in the field. The MKT provides a standard, efficient, vehicular-mounted operating unit that eliminates the need to improvise kitchen facilities. The MKT can withstand frequent movement over unimproved surfaces, and it can be moved with relative ease over great distances in daylight, darkness, and under blackout conditions. The kitchen is engineered to provide three hot meals per day for a company-sized unit and requires no major overhaul or replacement of major components for 180 days.
The MKT is issued as basic equipment to battalions, companies, batteries, and detachments as authorized in the Table of Organization and Equipment (TO&E) for mess, personnel, and equipment (CTA 50-909, Field and Garrison Furnishings and Equipment). MKTs can be pooled when the tactical or logistical situation dictates the desirability of centralized food preparation. One kitchen is issued per company or equivalent unit. The kitchen requires a 5-soldier team to set it up in 1 hour.
The MKT and its component equipment can be used to produce all families of rations and additional supplements. However, during extreme cold weather the MKT, as originally designed for tropical environments, is not suitable; the temperature is inadequate for the proper functioning of the equipment as well as for the personnel. A product improvement test involving two different models of the MKT was conducted in 1988 at the U.S. Army Cold Regions Test Center (CRTC), Fort Greely, Alaska (Sargent, 1988). The two models tested were the NRDEC-MKT-85 and the MKT-85 with winterization kit from the Sixth Infantry Division (Light) (sixth ID [L] improved MKT). The test was designed to determine if adequate protection could be provided in a cold environment without an external, heated shelter and to develop modifications that would allow the MKT to be transported without damage by rotary wing aircraft.
During 33 actual and simulated feeding missions conducted in ambient temperatures ranging from -38° to 11°F (-39° to -12°C), both MKTs were instrumented using 10 thermocouplers to monitor temperatures. The thermocouplers were positioned at head, hand, and foot levels centered at the front and rear of the center work area and at the hand level on the interior side walls. Four M-2 burner units were operated in each MKT with one-half of the roof vents open 6 to 12 inches (15.2 to 30.5 cm) for an average of 4.5 hours during each instrumented mission. Instrumented missions that were conducted at temperatures of -9° to -7°F (-23° to -22°C); -17° to -15°F (-27° to -26°C); and -38° to -36°F (-39° to -38°C) were grouped, and mean stabilized temperatures were calculated. Average interior warm-up time for the NRDEC-MKT trailer temperature was 25 minutes compared to 45 minutes for the sixth
ID (L) improved MKT. Temperatures at the head and hand level were slightly warmer in the NRDEC-MKT.
Little difference in foot-level temperature was noted between the two MKTs. Because of extremely low foot temperatures monitored throughout the testing in the MKTs, operating personnel were required to wear vapor barrier boots. Additionally, adequate cleaning of the MKT could not be performed during testing due to low foot-level temperatures. This caused food and grease buildup on the floor insulators and resulted in unsanitary and slippery conditions. The cold floor temperatures and slippery conditions are considered significant problems.
During the test period, an attempt was made to determine an effective means to increase the temperature of the floor area in both MKTs. A 400,000-BTU space heater (Herman-Nelson) was vented under the MKTs with positive results. However, the 400,000-BTU space heater is not a recommended solution for heating the MKT floor. The heater starts poorly and is unreliable in the cold. In addition, it has a high fuel consumption rate and frequently requires maintenance from operator and crew.
A heating trial was also performed using two M-2 burner units placed under the floor of the MKTs. This method was effective in elevating the floor temperature but constituted a safety hazard to operating personnel in the MKT. In addition, minor damage was caused to the wiring harness of the MKT because of excessive heat, even though M-2 burners were set at low levels. This method also removed one-third of the kitchen's cooking capabilities because after using two of the six M-2 burner units provided in the MKT to heat the floor, only four units were available for heating and cooking food.
After one actual heating mission in each MKT, it was determined that excessive amounts of air entered both MKTs, and as a result, all cover assembly panels were extended 6 inches. After performance of two additional actual feeding missions in each MKT, it was noted that the doors on the end cover assemblies could not be closed properly due to fabric contraction in the cold.
During testing of both MKTs in temperatures below -5°F (-21°C), the fabric of the roof canopy assemblies and the cover assemblies became extremely stiff. Failure of the fabric to stretch during installation of the upright poles during setup resulted in frequent damage to the roof canopy sections and made assembly of the cover tedious.3 Both MKTs had to have cover
assemblies heated in a building before installation. These problems are significant as mobility of the MKT was greatly reduced.
After testing both MKTs, it was determined that neither met the standards required for use in an extreme cold-weather environment. The Sixth Infantry Division (Light) therefore implemented other policies and procedures to ensure that soldiers are adequately fed in a field environment under extreme cold. This test encouraged the present Army doctrine that MKTs and A Rations are not to be used within the Sixth Infantry Division (Light) during the period 15 October through 15 April (U.S. Department of the Army, 1993a, b).
AN EQUIPMENT SOLUTION: THE KITCHEN COMPANY LEVEL FIELD FEEDING EQUIPMENT
The Kitchen Company Level Field Feeding equipment (KCLFF) with tentage and a Yukon stove is the current U.S. Army solution to heating rations in cold environments. The tentage is a modified M-577 TOC (Tactical Operations Center) extension. The KCLFF and M-577 TOC extensions have been issued and used with great success. As the M-577 TOC extensions are phased out, the Tent, Expendable, Modular, Personnel (TEMPER) and extendable, modular frame-supported shelter consisting of a collapsible aluminum frame covered with polyester fabric is the best solution to the Sixth Infantry Division (Light) tentage problem. Both are easily set up and taken down, which meets the requirement for quick mobility. The tentage fabric shrinks slightly in cold weather, but it does not create open areas to allow the entry or escape of cold winds or heat, as was the problem with the trailer. All equipment can be transported in a Small Unit Support Vehicle (SUSV) over a variety of terrain.
THE U.S. ARMY FIELD FEEDING SYSTEM
Commanders and unit leaders must understand the U.S. Army Field Feeding System (AFFS) (FM 10-23, 1991) to ensure that the system benefits their soldiers in training and on the battlefield. Command involvement in training and planning for field training and contingency operations must be detailed and comprehensive. They must know ration availability, equipment requirement, logistics support, enhancement requisitioning, and accountability. They must understand the capabilities and limitations of their personnel, both cooks and subsistence handlers.
Since the canvas would not stretch correctly, there were open air spaces throughout the trailer's canopy assemblies.
To standardize requests for ration support, the following procedure is used:
- Ninety days prior to an exercise, the requesting unit is responsible for submitting Class I forecasts4 to the Division Support Command element (DISCOM). The forecast will then be forwarded through the Division Class I Officer (DCI) to the supporting Troop Issue Subsistence Activity (TISA). The request will contain the unit's exercise dates, personnel strength, and desired ration schedule.
- Sixty days prior to the start of the exercise, the unit will update the forecast.
- Forty-five days prior to the exercise start date, the supporting TISA and DCI will publish a ration issue schedule, which includes issue dates for T Ration menus.
- Thirty days prior to an exercise, the DCI section will publish a preprinted issue schedule and menu.
- Twenty days prior to the exercise, the requiring units will submit ration requests for the first 10 days of the exercise.
- Fourteen days prior to the exercise, the DISCOM Division Support Area (DSA) element will submit all ordering documents for the first 10 days to the supporting TISA.
The Sixth Infantry Division (Light) uses the KCLFF with M-577 TOC extension for foodservice operations in the field and to provide remote feeding capabilities to forward areas. Tray rations currently are the preferred hot operational ration for Cold-Weather Feeding Doctrine (U.S. Department of the Army, 1993a). The Arctic T Ration (18-Man Module) and the MRE will be used in the ration cycle T-MRE-T.
The Sixth Infantry Division (Light) established Standard Operation Procedures (U.S. Department of the Army, 1993b) that allowed units close to home station (not more than 30-min travel) to have the option of providing A Rations from a dining facility for their soldiers. The lunch meal will be MREs with warming beverages. RCWs will be utilized only for long-range patrols, mountain-glacier training, and in areas where resupply is extremely difficult.
During the past 4 to 5 years, the Sixth Infantry Division (Light) tested, modified, and invented equipment to withstand arctic conditions in order to
provide the best and safest means of Class I ration support (U.S. Department of the Army, 1990). The KCLFF meets the requirement of providing two hot Arctic T Rations daily in temperatures as low as -70°F (-57°C).
Soldiers in extreme cold environments are being offered the KCLFF, M-577 TOC extension, the Arctic T Ration, MREs, and the RCW. They are therefore provided with the right meal, at the right place, and at the right time.
The following recommendations are made regarding field feeding of U.S. soldiers in the cold:
- Sources of heat to prepare and serve hot meals under arctic conditions must improve. The dependency on liquid or gas fuels creates safety hazards, and a dry heat source must be developed. The use of electricity, microwave, or solar power should be considered.
- When heating water, condensation causes tremendous problems with tentage and camouflage netting. A system to vent steam out and away from kitchen preparation areas should be developed.
- Research and testing to improve the Arctic T Ration, MRE, and RCW should continue in order to increase troop acceptability.
FM 10-23 1991 See U.S. Department of the Army, 1991b.
Sargent, R.E. 1988 Product improvement test of the Mobile Kitchen Trailer (MKT). Final letter report. Natick, Mass.: Natick Research, Development and Engineering Center.
U.S. Department of the Army 1989 Ration, Cold Weather (RCW). Fact Sheet. Natick, Mass.: Food Engineering Directorate (STRNG-WTP), Natick Research, Development and Engineering Center.
1990 Field Class I Support, AcofS, G-4. Fort Wainwright, Alaska: Sixth Infantry Division (Light).
1991a The Army Family of Rations. Memorandum. Fort Lee, Va.: Army Center of Excellence and Subsistence, U.S. Army Quartermaster Center and School.
1991b FM 10-23. ''The Army Field Feeding System." Fort Monroe, Va.: Training and Doctrine Command.
1993a Cold Weather Feeding Doctrine. Fact Sheet APVR-LG-FS/Acofs, G-4. Fort Wainwright, Alaska: Sixth Infantry Division (Light).
1993b Sixth Infantry Division (Light) Standard Operating Procedures. Cold Weather Field Feeding Procedures, Appendix C. Fort Wainwright, Alaska: Sixth Infantry Division (Light).