Camp Leatherneck Will Cut Meals and Morale

Beginning Saturday, MRE’s will replace hot meals at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan and a 24-hour sandwich bar will be struck. As the US continues its draw-down of troops in that region, midnight rations known as midrats are one of the casualties. The Marines stationed there and many back home aren’t happy about it. Said one Marine in an email to his wife, “This boils my skin. One of my entire shifts will go 6.5 hours without a meal. If we need to cut back on money I could come up with 100 other places.”

The cooking cutback is due not to sequestration but to the fact that “support services” personnel such as food workers “need to go home before the people who provide the security which enables those services,” wrote Marine Corps Lt. Col. Cliff Gilmore in an email to NBC News. Gilmore has been deployed in Afghanistan since February. Gilmore’s correspondence is upbeat and matter-of-fact, but it doesn’t make the message easy to swallow. The menu at the base will eventually drop to just 2 hot meals a day but morale and not stomachs may take the biggest hit.

Babette Maxwell is founder and executive director of Military Spouse Magazine, the wife of a Navy pilot and an advocate for service members and their families. As she puts it, “Psychologically, midrats is probably the most important of all the meals because that’s when the big social time - where first (shift) crew is coming off and second (shift) crew is coming on. That’s where you get the esprit de corps, the camaraderie. it’s not just the food you’re taking away, it’s their social sustenance.”

A Facebook page, “Breakfast for Bagram,” has been launched to spur food donations to the troops in and around Afghanistan.

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