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Chow Down


Claim:   Due to budget cuts, U.S. troops deployed overseas are no longer provided with breakfast.

MIXTURE:
FALSE: Budget cuts have eliminated breakfast for U.S. troops deployed overseas.
 
TRUE: Hot breakfasts have been replaced with MRE for troops at some military bases in Afghanistan that are transitioning to local control.

Examples:

[Collected via e-mail, May 2013]

So my lil brother is in Afghanistan. He skypes us yesterday and proceeds to tell us the army is cutting there meals to two a day because if budget issues... are u fuckin serious. Yet all the criminals that are locked up get three hots and a cot no questions asked. You all need to share this. Not just for my bro but all of our troops. It is a shame that they put there life on the line and this is how they get treated.
 

[Collected via e-mail, January 2013]

For those of you who haven't heard, our elected officials believe that our military who are deployed overseas don't have a need for breakfast anymore, and our troops found out the hard way they were being denied such effective today. The following is a post I copied and pasted from another friends timeline:

"There are signs posted on the chow halls [saying that breakfast will not be provided], then once inside, I asked the girl that checks the cards if we were getting no HOT meals and just cereal etc or nothing, and she told us no, the halls will be locked, and they were. Most soldiers found out by showing up this morning and finding the chow halls locked. We got a days notice, no MRE's, nothing. It would make sense to cut the LUNCH chow out or at least down to just cold meat sandwiches, cause when on mission, most don't ever seen lunch. That Day's Notice, was just a sign on the chow hall. If you didn't go to a chow hall yesterday or hear, you were surprised. I had grabbed stuff last night, apples, oranges, v8 and snacks, but a lot of soldiers didn't."

'In another message, the soldier explained that defense budget cuts in the bill recently passed to avoid the fiscal cliff are apparently the reason that breakfast will no longer be served. As an American who believes that our troops deserve the full support of the country they are fighting to protect, I must adamantly express my disapproval for this "no breakfast" policy and urge Congressman Wolf to change it. I do not know if this policy is widespread throughout Afghanistan or if it is only affecting a few bases, but to be blunt - one base is one too many. The soldiers in this particular unit are combat engineers — it is their job to go before the infantry to clear the route of IEDs. How can they be expected to have the sharpness of mind and strength of body required for such a dangerous & demanding job if they are not provided a solid meal at the beginning of the day? Also, what message is Congress sending our soldiers by taking away a such staple of everyday life — breakfast? It's a message the conveys a lack of support, awareness, & gratitude for the dangerous, sacrificial work that they are doing. And that is an absolutely unacceptable message for our brave soldiers to receive."

Obviously, I had nothing positive to say about this when I heard the news. It's amazing to me, actually it really isn't, that this isn't national headline news! For the lack of better words, I am embarrassed of our government for their treatment of our military.
 

[Collected via e-mail, January 2013]

Letter: Are our soldiers going hungry while Congress boosts its pay?

Published: January 6, 2013

My nephew recently returned to Afghanistan for his second deployment. A few days ago he went to the mess hall only to find it locked and posted with a sign explaining that, due to budget cuts, breakfast would no longer be served.

On that same day, it was reported in the media that members of Congress would be receiving an automatic pay raise they had budgeted for themselves. Every citizen of the United States should be outraged by this! If we cannot afford to feed our soldiers, we certainly cannot afford to increase the salaries of our “political elite.”

— Janell Perkins

Anchorage [Alaska]
 

Origins:   This item about breakfast no longer being provided to U.S. troops deployed overseas has some elements of truth to it, but not to the extent suggested by the example reproduced above. It isn't true that, due to
Congressional raises or fiscal cliff-related budget cuts, breakfast has been completely eliminated for all U.S. troops stationed outside the U.S. It is true that "hot chow" breakfasts have been replaced with MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) at some U.S. bases in Afghanistan because those areas are preparing for a transition to local control.

CDR Bill Speaks, Secretary of Defense Press Officer for the Afghanistan/Pakistan/Central Asia area, told us that at U.S. bases in the Paktika Province of Afghanistan (which are being transitioned to Afghan control) the meal cycle has been modified such that troops now receive breakfast as MREs rather than as hot meals:
We want to assure you that all Soldiers are receiving 4 meals per day (if they want all four). Breakfast is an MRE, lunch and dinner are traditionally served hot meals, and the midnight meal is MRE. Most dining facilities have a variety of takeaway items like cereal, milk, juice, fruit oatmeal, and granola bars to augment the MREs.

As part of the responsible drawdown of operational forces serving in Afghanistan, the staff examined ways to reduce our footprint and set the conditions for the reduction of forces. The leaders, both military and civilian, provided feedback during the process and estimated that by changing the meal cycle, they would reduce their overall operations by 40%. After careful examination, the local command in Paktika decided to modify the meal cycle. This has nothing to do with the national budget, and everything to do with our responsible reduction of forces. We see this as a good thing — even though some of our amenities may change as we head home, our Afghan partners continue to transition into the areas we once held.
The American Forces Press Service also reported that:
There is no truth to the Internet myth that Washington budget cuts have taken away breakfast for service members in Afghanistan, Defense Department officials said.

Americans serving in Afghanistan can have up to four meals a day: breakfast, lunch, dinner and a midnight meal, if one is needed.

The Internet myth’s genesis came from a few forward operating bases in eastern Afghanistan’s Paktika province that are closing or being turned over to Afghan security forces. Instead of a hot, prepared breakfast, service members at those bases receive packaged meals known as "meals, ready-to-eat," or MREs. This streamlines the logistics for these closing bases, officials explained.

The original email that sparked the controversy vastly overstated the extent of the "MRE for breakfast" policy. The original email also said the reason for the policy was because of DOD [Department of Defense] budget cuts. This is not true, defense officials said. The vast majority of service members in Afghanistan are receiving a hot breakfast, officials emphasized.
A reader with a relative in the National Guard who is currently deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom confirmed this meal cycle change in a message to us (while noting that its application appears to be inconsistent):

During a Facebook chat just after Christmas he asked me to send cereal to him and his unit as they had just been provided notice that hot breakfast CHOW would no longer be provided as of Jan. 1, 2013.

My sister sent an email to the FRG (Family Readiness Group) to confirm what seems to be an absurd policy. We received the following response from his company's Admin:
 

You are correct that a majority of the bases are no longer providing HOT chow to Soldiers for breakfast, including the base that I am currently stationed on. They are still providing each Soldier with an MRE and other non-hot meal related items to include cereal at most locations. Many Bases have decided to make the change to morning chow since this meal had the lowest attendance throughout the day. The Army is cutting back on several items in anticipation of the accelerated timeline to close bases throughout the coming year.

The Army is required to provide each Soldier two hots and a cot. Normally in a situation like this, the Army would serve Hot Breakfast Chow, MRE Lunch and Hot Dinner Chow, but since Breakfast had the lowest attendance, it only made sense to make that the MRE meal. There will be no additional Substance Allowance due to the fact that Soldiers still are afforded the opportunity to eat an MRE. If Soldiers choose not take advantage of the MRE, that is on them.
 

This very much does confirm that a HOT breakfast is no longer being supplied to these soldiers. And according to my brother who is on the ground at one of the Afghanistan bases it does appear that non-hot breakfast items in general are in very limited supply. It also confirms that breakfast in general and notification about MRE availability is not being handled in the same manner at each and every base in Afghanistan.
 

We've received similar reports from personnel stationed in Afghanistan (and their relatives):

I am at an outlying COP (Combat Out Post) that is neighbor to FOB (Forward Operations Base) Sharana where this is currently taking place. An email, which I am not able to forward, was sent out to all people in the Sharana area on 28 December stating that on the 30th of December breakfast and midnight chow will be stopped and you must pick up an MRE [at] lunch and dinner time in order to have a meal for breakfast.
 

The "rumor" about military breakfast being cut out is true. My husband, along with a few of my friends have been reporting (all from different FOBs) that they are no longer being served a morning meal. For a lot of soldiers, this means that, due to their shifts, they are only able to make it to chow for one meal a day now.
 

Last updated:   23 September 2014

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