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EDITORS: The following report is based on pool dispatches subjected

February 15, 1991

EDITORS: The following report is based on pool dispatches subjected to censorship by allied military authorities.

Undated (AP) _ By BOB DVORCHAK Associated Press Writer

IN NORTHERN SAUDI ARABIA (AP) - The first hot food in weeks for front line troops was simple: beef patties and baked beans. But it warmed soldiers like a spring breeze after a long winter.

″A hot meal is just like getting a letter. It’s a big morale boost,″ said Sgt. 1st Class John Aguilar, 46, of Hartford, Conn., a mess sergeant for an artillery battery.

″It’s hot food. It’s a change of menu,″ said Spec. 4 Kevin Crosy, 22, of Flint, Mich. ″You get tired of eating the same stuff every day.″

Called a T-ration, these prepacked meals - heated in tubs of hot water - are the Army’s version of a TV dinner. Menus include chicken, lasagne and vegetables, and cooks can also dole out hot water for instant soup, coffee and hot chocolate.

For the troops dug in near Iraqi front lines in northern Saudi Arabia, it was a big change. They’ve been living for three weeks on MREs - Meals, Ready- To-Eat. Soldiers say that’s three lies in one.

Few topics get as much griping and grumbling time as food. It causes more heartburn than the desolation, cold, sandstorms and every other hardship soldiers have endured for six months.

But a hot meal makes a big difference, even if some GIs are loathe to admit it. The Army manual for desert warfare says food and water are tactical weapons.

″You think the Iraqi army is getting a hot meal? No way is the other side getting anything like this,″ said Capt. Paul Rondorf, 30, of Thief River Falls, Minn.

Still, some soldiers honestly believe the food weapon is pointed in the wrong direction, especially when it comes to MREs in their muddy brown packets.

″If it wasn’t for the instant soup my sister sends me, I’d starve,″ said Sgt. Kevin Barrett, 23, of Scranton, Pa.

MREs, the latest incarnation of C-rations, are light and easy to carry but soldiers complain about their lack of variety. The newest types feature 12 menus.

Some soldiers try to be creative.

Take, for example, the dehydrated beef patty with bean component - which is ominously marked ″not for pre-flight comsumption.″ Mix in a little water, add beans, tobasco sauce and crackers, and voila: field chili.

″With every Joe, there’s going to be a different concoction,″ said Sgt. Ray Decipulo, 28, of Guam.

The biggest challenge is to heat the meal. Decipulo has seen soldiers heat packets on a vehicle’s exhaust pipe or engine. Some soldiers carry small butane heaters.

The Army also offers MOREs (Meals Operational Ready-to-Eat), which are prepacked foods like baby beef ribs, chicken and spaghetti. They’re great for microwaves, of which there are few in the Saudi desert.

Many soldiers rely on packages from home.

Others have started a vigorous trade of equipment for French troops’ food, which is called ″ration de combat individuelle rechauffable,″ a fancy name for reheatable food.

Each box of French rations comes with soup stock, canned cheese and heat tablets for cooking. But the French won’t take MREs in return.

″The French told us they won’t serve MREs to their POWs,″ said Spec. 4 Chris Jusiewicz of Beverly, Mass.

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