By Barbara Starr
Napoleon Bonaparte is credited with the battlefield adage: "An Army moves on its stomach." That, of course, means there's nothing like good chow.
For the thousands of U.S. troops who will fight in Afghanistan for another 17 months, it is not just the quality of the food they have to consider. Now there will be a bit less of it.
U.S. troops in Afghanistan for years have been fed four hot meals a day, including what is fondly known as "mid-rats" or midnight rations.
That is a meal for troops headed back and forth from the field or pulling a midnight shift on base.
Those meals are served in cafeteria-style dining halls - sometimes little more than a tent - where troops can select items from a buffet.
But as the United States winds down its combat operations in Afghanistan, so, too, will it wind down its food operations.
The Defense Department is cutting back to two hot meals a day, most likely just lunch and dinner.
The reason: the Pentagon is trying to scale down the number of contractors needed to cook and serve meals and run dining areas.
Its all about getting ready to pull troops, equipment and everything else that supports the war.
"We will significantly reduce contractor and supply chain requirements," said David Lakin, a spokesman for U.S. Force in Afghanistan, in an e-mail exchange with CNN.
Commanders insist, however, that the troops will not go hungry.
Packaged foods will be available. But breakfast and the midnight meal will now be mainly "meals ready to eat." Those are the bagged rations known as "MRE's."
Large-quantity rations packages, which feed multiple troops at one time, also will be available.
The military believes "most soldiers don't consume the midnight meal and breakfast is also a low attendance event.
Putting the two hot meals together through lunch and dinner also allows for removal of an entire dining facility shift, Lakin said.
This will put troops in the position of eating rations for at least 17 months until the United States ends its combat presence.
Individual commanders will have the flexibility to make some changes in the meal plan. But in the meantime, what are the very top senior military officials eating, especially those from NATO, which does not fall under Pentagon rules?
Well a letter is being drafted to NATO headquarters asking them to go along with the same plan, and that means Gen. Joseph Dunford, the four-star Marine who runs Afghanistan operations, may soon find himself ripping open a ration bag just like everyone else.
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