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Marine Mail: Why Not Use the Old Style Mess Kits?

By Gunnery Sgt. Patrick Murphy and Col. H.J. O'Neill

WASHINGTON (Mar 20, 1998) -- The following Marine Mail was submitted by Gunnery Sgt. Patrick M. Murphy:

Recently, while on Operation Tandum Thrust, I saw the Australians and the Seabees using the old style mess kits. I remember when the Marine Corps used to issue those items as 782 gear. It hit me that using paper gear in its place is not cost effective. In fact, it's very expensive. During these days of budget cuts, as well as being more environmentally aware, it would make good sense to bring those items back into use. We could use them over and over, instead of the one-time use we get out of paper gear. This would provide units more money for training vice buying paper gear.

Colonel H.J. O'Neill, chief of staff, Marine Corps Systems Command, sent the following reply:

Currently, the Marine Corps feeds personnel utilizing three methods. The first is Meals Ready to Eat, which require no tableware except that provided in the self-contained package. The second method is the Tray Ration System, which is also self-contained and comes complete with tableware. The third method calls for establishing a field mess utilizing B rations or canned food, mixed with A rations or fresh food. This is the only method which requires external tableware support.

Sanitation, weight, and cost were the major factors for not continuing use of the mess kit. Sanitation is the ability to clean by killing all pathogenic bacteria, or the ability to clean the kits so that our Marines would not get sick and lose their ability to operate. To accomplish this, a significant amount of maintenance cost was required to maintain the M-67 immersion water heaters used to produce boiling water for sanitizing the mess kits. Also, the IWH used gasoline as a fuel and DoD policy is to phase out all requirements for gasoline.

Additionally, the mess kit added weight to the load that the individual Marine was required to carry.

However, based upon your suggestion, MARCORSYSCOM will initiate a study at Natick Labs under the DoD Food Program to ascertain if technology can provide any improvements in our current method of using disposable tableware.

Marine Corps News story, dated March 20, 1998.

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