Jason Momoa is a bona fide action star, a buff, bearded (most of the time) beast of a dude best known for playing fierce warriors of the Dothraki and underwater varieties. Off-screen, it seems that he takes the strength and free-spiritedness of his characters and combines it with an unapologetic commitment to his family.
In a new video – presumably for Harley-Davidson, though that’s not ever made explicit — Momoa talks about his lifelong love of motorcycles. Over scenic desert landscapes, a well-worn motorcycle shop tells the story of the very special way he shared that love with his kids.
“Fierce and proud I put my hand on the throttle and with a twist it rumbled and howled like I held the power to control its breathing,” he says, sounding like a muscled, tattooed Bruce Springsteen as slowed-down footage of his kids touching a motorcycle with wonder in their eyes plays.
“It was the first time I really felt speed. It was the awakening.”
In what sounds apocryphal, Momoa talks about finding an old, broken-down Harley motor in a garage and being seized with a dream to fix it up and build a bike around it.
“Reality sunk in, and that young man’s dream, it had to wait. For my life,” he says. Translation: he had kids and didn’t have time to spend fiddling around in the garage for hours on end. That part is definitely relatable.
But the video is about motorcycles, so Momoa finds the time — with what looks like a very able, affable motorcycle-fixing dude — to make his dream come true.
“It has taken three decades in the making. The longest dream I have ever held onto. And now, the best part is that I get to share that dream with my children and the people that I love.”
More beautiful shots of sparks flying, dirt getting kicked up, scenic vistas, and Momoa and his crew drinking beers follow. The motorcycle is fixed up and taken all over the desert.
“We built our family heirloom. We’re the Momoas. We’re the knuckleheads. And with every ride, whether it’s me, my daughter, my son, or even a grandchild I don’t know yet. They will share in the miles and memories we were creating.”
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
It’s hard to think of a more beloved — and sometimes hated — cultural touchstone in the military than MRE meals, or meals ready to eat. They’ve been around since the C-Rations of World War II and beyond, and have for decades offered a touch of comfort and a taste of home — albeit a highly engineered one that can last for years at high temperatures without spoiling. You can find MRE cookbooks that will tell you how to turn drink mix and generic toaster pastries into gourmet desserts, and there are scores of YouTube videos dedicated to taste-testing chili mac and the prized jalapeno cheese spread.
Well, it turns out there’s a lot of science that goes into each one of these compact rations packs, and sometimes the development of a new MRE menu item — such as the coveted pepperoni pizza slice — requires actual technological breakthrough. Today, we’ll talk to two people from the Combat Feeding Directorate in Natick, Massachusetts: Lauren Oleksyk, team leader for food engineering, who holds two patents in revolutionary food science, and David Accetta, an Army military historian and public affairs officer at the directorate.
The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Left of Boom:
Hope Hodge Seck 0:00
Welcome back to Left of Boom. I’m your host, Hope Hodge Seck. It’s hard to think of a more beloved — and sometimes hated — cultural touchstone in the military than meals ready to eat, or MREs. They’ve been around since the C-rations of World War II and beyond, and have for decades offered a touch of comfort and a taste of home, albeit a highly engineered one that can last for years at high temperatures without spoiling. You can find MRE cookbooks that will tell you how to turn drink mix and generic toaster pastries into gourmet desserts, and there are scores of YouTube videos dedicated to taste-testing chili mac and the prized jalapeno cheese spread. Well, it turns out there’s a lot of science that goes into each one of these compact rations packs. And sometimes the development of a new MRE menu item, such as the coveted pepperoni pizza slice requires actual technological breakthrough. Today we’ll talk to two people from the Combat Feeding Directorate in Natick, Massachusetts: Lauren Oleksyk, team leader for food engineering, who holds two patents in revolutionary food science, and David Accetta, an Army military historian and public affairs officer at the directorate. Welcome to the show.
Lauren Oleksyk 1:10
David Accetta 1:11
Hi, thank you very much for having us.
Hope Hodge Seck 1:14
So, Lauren, I am so interested in this really unique job that you have. So how did you end up as the team leader of food engineering, basically one of the top MRE developers for the military? Do you start taking the science career path to get here? Or do you get here through a love of the culinary arts? Or both? What was it for you?
Lauren Oleksyk 1:39
For me, it was a little of both. I specifically sought a career in the combat feeding division. While I was still in college, I majored in food science at a local university and started working at the soldier center as an intern. But I would say my interest in food science actually began as a child. I came from a large family and we had an enormous garden. So we canned most of our fruits and vegetables. And I learned very early on about food preservation, and my neighbors were dairy farmers. So my first job as a teen was in the milk-processing field. So I think I developed an early interest in that and also in nutrition and packaging, and I love to cook. So a career in food science was a perfect fit for me.
Hope Hodge Seck 2:24
When did you encounter your first MRE? or How did you get interested in the military side of boot development in the first place?
Lauren Oleksyk 2:32
Well, I interned at a soldier center in the combat feeding division, and I was immediately drawn to the science and technology side of ration development. And one of my first tasks there was to develop cereal bars for survival rations. You know, I had some product development experience when I was in college. But this was my first real hands on experience with product development. And I assumed it would be not too difficult, you know, I develop a cereal bar and test it out, and it will be ready to go. And I quickly learned all about the military constraints and requirements for rations and realize that this was really a unique job.
Hope Hodge Seck 3:12
Can you give a rundown on what those requirements and constraints are?
Lauren Oleksyk 3:16
Probably the most difficult challenge is, rations have to withstand a three-year shelf life. So that’s at 80 degrees Fahrenheit, that’s a long time that these foods have to be shelf-stable and not spoil. They also have to be extremely compact and lightweight and durable enough to survive airdrop, they have to withstand extreme climatic changes that range from minus 60 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. So our packaging has to be really, really durable to protect rations for that long of a period of time. And we have nutritional requirements that are mandated by the Office of the Surgeon General. Also we have to consider operational scenarios. Where will these rations be issued? This is a lot to consider. It’s not as simple as if you were developing a food for the commercial market.
Hope Hodge Seck 4:05
So the cereal bar was it a hit? Did it meet the requirement? Is it still out there in the world.
Lauren Oleksyk 4:11
It is still a component of survival rations. These rations have very, very long shelf life requirements, sometimes in excess of three years. And the cereal bars are still packaged in that ration, but it’s a special-purpose ration and it’s not readily used unless it needs to be. There’s less variety in that type of ration compared to the MRE.
Hope Hodge Seck 4:31
And I’m not sure how long you’ve been at the combat feeding directorate. But what other MRE recipes have you created or developed since you got there?
Lauren Oleksyk 4:40
I’ve been there a long time. It’s going on 37 years now.
Hope Hodge Seck 4:44
Oh my goodness.
Lauren Oleksyk 4:46
Yeah. And over the years, I was involved in the development of a few MRE items. One in particular, I have a co-patent on the MRE shelf-stable bread, and this bread is stable for three years due to a series of what we call hurdle technologies that keep the bread from staling or spoiling. So this product and technologies that we use to stabilize it form the basis of several other big items in the MRE. To this day, things like the shelf-stable pizza that you’ve heard about, and shelf-stable sandwiches that are in some of our other rations.
Hope Hodge Seck 5:22
That’s incredible. Can you go through what those technologies are that keep the bread for example, from going stale or otherwise spoiling?
Lauren Oleksyk 5:32
The technologies used for bread and baked goods are, we call them hurdle technologies. And this is a way to preserve foods that have intermediate moisture contents without having to subject them to a thermal sterilization process. Essentially, you introduce hurdles to microbial growth. And you do that by using specific ingredients that control water activity that control the product’s pH, control the moisture content, in the case of something like a shelf-stable pizza, it would control the migration of moisture from one part of the food to another, because you might have a lot of components. Like in the case of the pizza, you have the dough, the sauce, the cheese, the toppings, and they all have different moisture contents and water activity. So if you don’t control how that migrates from piece to piece, you are going to introduce the opportunity for microbial spoilage. So we use ingredients, and we also control the headspace in the package. And everything we can do to prevent that spoilage. And we test the safety of the food throughout its three-year shelf life to confirm that it’s safe to consume and nothing will grow. That’s an example of a hurdle technology. And it’s employed in different ways for different intermediate moisture products.
Hope Hodge Seck 6:51
And I know this MRE pizza slice pepperoni pizza slice, I’ve actually tried it, it came out a few years ago, and it was sort of the holy grail of MRE. And as I understand, was a highly requested item since its release. Have you tracked soldier service member feedback? And what are you hearing about how well it’s going over in the field?
Lauren Oleksyk 7:12
Well, we should actually start getting that data soon. It was incorporated into the MRE in 2018, and really first fielded around 2019. Every year, we actually do field tests and evaluation with soldiers and we get that feedback from them. So this will be the first year that we actually can start collecting data on the fielded Pizza to assess how well it’s accepted. But prior to it going into the MRE, we did a number of field evaluations on just that item like all MRE components. It had to be warfighter-tested and approved before it went into the ration. And the pizza definitely was a highly accepted product. They had been asking for it for years, and it was very well received. So we’re hoping that the field test results going forward confirm that, and we’ll keep a close eye on it.
Hope Hodge Seck 8:02
What sort of feedback do you solicit in these surveys that you’re talking about getting the data back from?
Lauren Oleksyk 8:07
We ask them to rate the acceptability of the components, especially if we’re testing new prototypes. So they’re given a scale from one to nine, and they rank how well they like the product. We also do consumption studies, where we measure how much of each item they eat, and how much they throw away, so we can assess whether something is under-consumed. And if we see that trend, we’ll ask them questions regarding that: why aren’t they consuming it? And then every year, based on that data, we make decisions on whether something’s retired from the MRE or replaced with something else. And a lot of times the demographics might change of the military. So things that were well loved by warfighters, you know, back in the ’70s and ’80s are not well-liked by you know, some of the military personnel today who might prefer different foods that reflect more of what they ate when they were growing up.
Hope Hodge Seck 9:03
I know for example, cigarettes are no longer included in MREs and they were historically included in combat rations many years ago. But how often our items are tired and what are some of the most recent items to be retired?
Lauren Oleksyk 9:17
Things that were very popular years ago like chicken a la king, ham and lima beans to go way back, those things were retired, and today we have things like burritos and vegetarian options, things that they request and are much more familiar with — the MRE pizza. But in terms of what’s taken in and out every year, it varies.
David Accetta 9:35
It’s all based on the soldiers and feedback and and it’s actually not just soldiers. We also do the surveys with Marines, because the Army and the Marine Corps are the primary consumers of the MREs. So we need to get their feedback and ask them what do they like, what they don’t like, and then what they don’t like, gets retired, and we try to figure out what they do like, which is how we got to the pizza. And then a lot of the other things that are in MREs — If you looked at the menu from today versus the menus from the early 80s, when they first came out, you’ll see great differences in the entrees. Because the original MREs were pretty much based on traditional American comfort food, the same way that the previous series of rations, meal combat-individual, and before that the Army C-rations. You know, as we did more surveys and got more feedback from military personnel, we found out what they liked and what they didn’t like. And Lauren alluded to it when she said things that they remember growing up, and you’ve got so much more diversity in the Army now, you’ve got people from all different ethnic backgrounds. So there’s a lot of different types of food. It’s not just standard American comfort food, it’s not pot roast, and it’s not those kind of things anymore.
Hope Hodge Seck 11:01
So one of my favorite things about MREs, henever I’ve had the chance to eat them downrange is all the little side items that they come with, all the little packages you can open and the jalapeno cheese spread and the snacks for later. It’s really fun opening them up and seeing all the items that are inside and how they all work together. And you know, of course there are those people who make little recipes in the field with whatever they have or trade them back and forth. So how does a new complete MRE menu come about? And what are sort of the parameters for ensuring complementarity of taste and nutritional balance and appeal for everything that’s in the package as a whole, developing a new menu?
Lauren Oleksyk 11:47
We consider three things really. The first one are the warfighters’ recommendations and their desires, you know, and the MRE pizza is an example of that. But secondly, and probably more importantly, we have to think about military requirements and the operational scenario where the ration will be used. And then lastly, we look at leading-edge food science and packaging technologies, because sometimes the science itself will bring us in a direction that says we can develop something that otherwise wouldn’t have been able to be developed before, because it’s a new technology that we can utilize. In addition to the three-year shelf life requirement for a new menu, we have nutritional guidelines that we have to follow. So there might be a nutrient that’s lacking in a menu. And so we’ll develop a food that specifically has that nutrient in it. So that as a whole when you put all those components together, the MRE is nutritionally complete. As far as taste and palatability, the combat feeding division is outfitted with a sensory lab, where technically trained panelists can examine the foods’ organoleptic properties. So this would include the appearance odor, flavor, texture, and overall quality. And we do that over the duration of the product shelf life. So we’ll rate the products on a scale and we try to achieve a score above a six. So you know,one being dislike, nine being like. And we’ll try to get a six at the end of a product shelf life to ensure that it’s acceptable once it’s issued, six or better. So that’s kind of our internal goal. But we also utilize general consumer panels who rate a new product based on just a matter of how much they like it. They don’t really look at the technical aspects of the food, but whether they like it or not. And then we have military human research volunteers that are located at soldier center. And we solicit them to test new prototypes and to participate in focus groups to get their feedback. And then after we do all of that is when we’ll conduct our annual or biannual field tests with military personnel. And that’s where every new MRE component must be tested and accepted before it will go into a ration.
Hope Hodge Seck 13:52
When you’re talking about this technical expert panelists, who are those people?
Lauren Oleksyk 13:57
They are primarily food technologists, they’ve undergone specific training in sensory evaluation. So we all have varied thresholds where we can pick up very subtle changes in flavors and odors. And we have a good range of us so they look across you know, people who have a very low threshold for salt, say. Some others might have a very low threshold for rancidity, or bitterness. And so combined, this group of technical panelists really can do a thorough evaluation of foods. And we’ll do it not only when a food is first developed, but even after it’s been stored for three years.
Hope Hodge Seck 14:35
That’s fascinating. So you talked about the hurdle technologies that led to bread and then to pizza, which was sort of like this revelation. Are there current scientific food challenges that you’re currently working through to pave the way to develop more items?
Lauren Oleksyk 14:53
Yes, there are. And one of the reasons is we’re very focused right now on the fact that soldiers and units might be in environments where they have to go longer without resupply. So right now, we’re very focused on reducing the logistics burden by reducing the weight and size of rations so that soldiers in small units can carry more. And this is becoming critically important. And it’s it’s dictating the development of smaller and more compact, nutrient-dense foods. So some of the technologies we’re really advancing right now are drying technologies to reduce the weight of foods, and compression technologies to reduce the volume of foods. And that’s includes things like vacuum microwave drying, and ultrasonic agglomeration, which is a compression technology. And sometimes we’re developing new prototypes, using a combination of those two technologies to make these very nutrient-dense, compact foods, in some cases can actually be entire meal replacement bars.
Hope Hodge Seck 15:56
The way you’re describing it, immediately, what comes to mind is the rations that are sent to space with astronauts, when you’re talking about drying and making things as late as they possibly can be. Are there any similarities there?
Lauren Oleksyk 16:10
Yes, very similar requirements. In fact, we collaborate with NASA, and have worked with them on many dense and compact items such as meal replacement bars that they’re considering for their menus for the mission to Mars. And also, we work with them on developing entrees that are used at the International Space Station. So the similarities and requirements for astronauts and military personnel are very, very similar. And in fact, NASA has long shelf-life requirements too, even longer than military rations in some case, but lightweight products in very dense products are required by both.
Hope Hodge Seck 16:50
How soon might we see a meal replacement bar out in the field and fully developed and being used by troops on the go?
Lauren Oleksyk 16:58
We’re working on a new ration called the close combat assault ration. This is a ration that’s designed to be extremely lightweight and compact. So we’re developing these nutrient-dense bars. Now they’re in the prototype stage for the close combat assault ration that’s going to be field-tested soon. Some of the first prototypes will be field-tested in the near future, the bars that we’re looking at for that ration are not necessarily full meal replacement bars. But they using the technology for drying and compression that enable us to make a full meal replacement bar if needed.
Hope Hodge Seck 17:34
And how much lighter it might these rations be than the typical MRE package?
Lauren Oleksyk 17:39
The ration components themselves, it depends on how much moisture you remove. But we’ve achieved anywhere between 40 to 70% decrease in weight on a component level, because essentially, you’re just taking the fresh food and you’re removing the moisture, but you can dial in how much you want to remove for palatability purposes. We know that war fighters don’t necessarily want to consume all dry bars. So we want to be able to offer a variety of moistures in these products so that it’s something they want to consume. So it depends, you know, the weight reductions depend, but we have metrics and goals to achieve about a 40% reduction in weight. And we can achieve the same and volume if we compress the product as well.
Hope Hodge Seck 18:27
As we’re talking about many development. I know in the last couple of decades, there’s a lot more service members who want to eat, say keto, or paleo, even Whole 30 — these diets that are really dependent on protein and vegetables and probably really hard to sustain in the field. And I’m sure there are things that it’s just like, yeah, there’s no way to make shelf-stable rations that fit that bill. But are you looking at any ways to develop additional menus that cater to people who have specific food requirements like these, or want to, I guess, eat a little bit more whole food or protein-heavy, whatever the case may be?
Lauren Oleksyk 19:12
With regard to the MRE, there is no requirement from the military services to develop keto or paleo menus. All the menus in the MREs have to meet the nutritional standards for operational rations. You know, and as I mentioned, that was that’s mandated by the Office of the Surgeon General. But we do listen to some of their desires for this for certain types of foods. And one example of that is we currently have four vegetarian meals in the MRE out of the 24 menus. Four of them are vegetarian, two new vegetarian entrees were approved for the latest MRE: cheese pizza and the Mexican-style rice and bean bowl. And every every ration is labeled in accordance with FDA regulations so individual soldiers can see the list of ingredients and they can determine for themselves, you know whether it’s a product that they want to consume, but in general, you know, we want them to consume the entire MRE, because that is a nutritionally complete ration and it will optimize their performance and health if they consume it all.
Hope Hodge Seck 20:14
In my journeys around the internet, I have found this trove of MRE enthusiasts who live on places like YouTube, where they’ll buy old MREs that are decades old and taste-test them or make Top Chef-style recipes, combining different ingredients, using the Kool-Aid powder and the, you know, you name it just really mixing things up. So do you ever kind of watch those YouTube videos? Or pay attention to that little subculture? And do the fans of MREs who kind of live out in the civilian world and are just interested in these things, do they ever inspire you in your work?
Lauren Oleksyk 20:51
I do watch those. I love those videos, they make me laugh, first of all, but I also think it’s so fun to see how creative they get with the types of things they make. I read the comments, I find the comments are very interesting and helpful. And I will bring, when I read something like that, I will have little brainstorm sessions at work. And we’ll talk about what people think and you know, some of the ideas that come from those videos in terms of new product lines. So yes, I do watch them. And a lot of times, you know, if they’re a positive review, it can be actually somewhat rewarding to know that you were part of the development of those products, I see that a lot with the flameless ration heater that they show inside the MRE, that was a development that — I was one of the original developers of the flameless ration heater. And even though it’s not a food item, it allows soldiers to actually have a hot meal now in the field, where before 1992, they didn’t always have a way to heat their entrees. So a lot of those YouTube videos will show people using the flameless ration heater and heating up their entree and it’s quite enjoyable to watch them.
Hope Hodge Seck 22:03
I love that so much.
David Accetta 22:05
The flameless ration heater was a huge, huge development that to help soldiers — well, all troops in the field. You know, having been in the Army for a long time, before flameless ration heaters, you have to come up with creative ways to to heat your food. Otherwise, you know, your food was essentially the same temperature as it was outside, whether that was 40 degrees or 70 degrees. The flameless ration heater made a huge difference to the morale of troops, because it gave them the ability to have hot food anywhere that they were. So they didn’t have to rely on using the heat from the engine of the vehicle that you happen to be next to, or finding some other creative way to heat up your MRE components without making a fire.
Hope Hodge Seck 22:55
Something that still gives troops a lot of joy is the instructions that those heaters come with. And the fact that they tell whoever is eating the MRE to put the whole package, balance it on “a rock or something” are the words that people really get a kick out of. Do you know how that particular bit of instruction that language came about?
Lauren Oleksyk 23:17
Yes, I happen to know that. Since we developed the flameless ration heater, we also developed the instructions that are on the bag. And initially that when we were designing the pictograms that you see on the package itself, we were trying to come up with an object that you lean the flameless ration heater on top of, at an angle, which helps it to heat faster. And we couldn’t think of an object. And my colleague next to me said, well, let’s just use the rock or something in the picture. And we did we put a rock and we called it the “rock or something” as a joke. And we left it in because people thought it was funny. And it actually brought some humor to the field. So we decided over the long term to leave it in there and we still hear about it all the time.
Hope Hodge Seck 24:04
That is so amazing.
Lauren Oleksyk 24:06
Hope Hodge Seck 24:06
So I do have to ask about a little bit more MRE myths and legends. Anyone who’s ever been out in the field is eating these and so they get talked about a lot and there are all these rumors that are flying around. First of all, the gum that comes with the current mre, they say it’s a laxative to keep things moving along. Is there any truth in that rumor?
David Accetta 24:27
Lauren Oleksyk 24:30
The gum at one point had a xylitol component which can have in some people a laxative effect, but it was it’s not intentionally in the MRE to to serve as a laxative. So yes, that is not exactly true.
David Accetta 24:46
The xylitol in the gum is to help prevent tooth decay. So it was designed for situations where you didn’t have the ability to brush your teeth. You could chew the gum and then that would help with the health of your teeth in the field.
Hope Hodge Seck 25:05
So there was a hidden benefit, but it was not what people were thinking.
Lauren Oleksyk 25:09
Hope Hodge Seck 25:10
Other one that I think spans your career is even back in the ’90s, maybe even in the early 2000s, maybe even longer — Charms candy, were part of some MRE menus and those were notorious for being bad luck. I think even in the Generation Kill miniseries, they come across the Charms dump, where everyone’s just gotten the Charms out of their MRIs to be on the safe side. So do you know anything about how that charms rumor came about? And when Charm stopped being part of the MRE?
Lauren Oleksyk 25:42
I’m not sure when exactly they were removed, they are no longer in the MRE today. And I know, I’ve heard of the curse of the Charms. Back in the day. If a warfighter received a ration with Charms in it, they would deem to bring bad luck, so they would get rid of them. I’ve heard stories of soldiers holding bags out to collect everyone’s Charms at feeding time to get rid of. David might have more experience with that.
David Accetta 26:08
Yeah, we don’t really have a good idea of exactly when or how Charms became associated with bad luck. But I mean, I do remember hearing that, that if you ate the Charms when you were in field, say in a training environment, then that would guarantee that it would rain on you. And then later on, as we got into more combat operations in different parts of the world, they became associated with soldiers getting injured or killed. Which is why some troops were very adamant about not having the Charms and getting rid of them as soon as they could. I think some of that might have to do with the popularity or lack of popularity of the Charms, of hard candy. So those had been part of military rations for a long time going back to World War II. And I kind of think personally that, generations later, troops were just not all that fond of hard candy, and just didn’t want to eat them, you know, whereas it was probably much more popular in the ’40s and ’50s.
Hope Hodge Seck 27:21
Makes sense. It’s good to get to get to the bottom of that one. I could talk to you all for hours. I think this is really fascinating stuff. And I love the work that you do. But I know we have to wrap up. So my final question is for each of you. What is your favorite MRE menu and why?
Lauren Oleksyk 27:39
Okay, well, for me, it’s the MRE pepperoni pizza, of course, partly because my team is the team that developed the item but also because I love pizza. And I also like the vegetarian taco pasta. So those are my two favorites.
Hope Hodge Seck 27:54
David Accetta 27:55
I have, I think very strange sense of taste. And that’s what most people would politely describe it. My favorite MRE was the omelet with ham. And that was also my favorite of the meal combat-individuals and the canned rations. And that was really good for me because most people didn’t like either one of those. So I could always trade whatever I had for that one. Now of the of the newer-generation MREs, I like the cheese tortellini, it’s even though it’s a vegetarian meal and I’m not a vegetarian. I like the cheese tortellini. And just as a point of trivia, the only ration I mean, the only entree that is still in the MRE menu from the original menu is the spaghetti. And everybody likes the spaghetti and during Desert Storm and going into Iraq in in 2003, as well, that one was really popular and I remember soldiers fighting over who was going to get the spaghetti because they like the spaghetti and that one also came with M&Ms. So that was a jackpot if you pull the the spaghetti MRE out of the box.
Hope Hodge Seck 29:19
Love it, jackpot indeed. Well, I have a very fun memory of being very hungry on a late night in Afghanistan and finding a first strike ration that had a pepperoni sandwich in it, and it tasted just so good. And I don’t think anything will ever taste as good as that item did.
David Accetta 29:39
And that is all due to the work that Lauren and her team did with the shelf-stable bread that enabled the pepperoni sandwich. But you’re exactly right. And we tell people that because you mentioned the the MRE videos on the internet and you know, MREs get a lot of criticism. Not only from troops, but also from civilians who may pick one up somewhere and they eat it. And they’re not designed to be gourmet food. And you know, what we like to tell people is that the true benefit of an MRE can’t be found if you’re sitting in your kitchen or your living room eating it. The benefit of an MRE is when you’re cold, wet, tired and hungry, sitting in the dark in the rain on a mountainside in Afghanistan. And you can open up an MRE and you can have hot food, and you can have something that reminds you of home and have better times and that’s really what the benefits of the MRE are and how you can really appreciate them.
Hope Hodge Seck 30:42
Well, Lauren, and David, thank you so much for coming on the show today.
David Accetta 30:46
Thank you. Great being here.
Hope Hodge Seck 30:57
Well, I don’t know about you, but that episode made me hungry. I’ll take the barbecue beef MRE: It comes with a side of black beans and shelf-stable tortillas and that delicious jalapeno cheese. Do you have any favorite memory recipes or stories about how you enjoy them in the field? Are there any combat ration myths and rumors that we didn’t get to on today’s episode? Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know. Hit subscribe on the show today, and if you use Apple podcasts, please do leave a rating and review. And until next time, remember to check out Military.com for all the information and news you need about your military community.
This week, airmen all over the world are finally able to don their super cool, super high-speed OCPs. Meanwhile, the Army has just one more year of ACUs before they have to be completely switched to the same pattern. Airmen are loving it, but soldiers have been reacting with a near-unanimous “are you f*cking kidding me?”
The airmen love it because they’re no longer in those ridiculous, tiger-stripe uniform. Soldiers hate it because, well, they’re cramping our style. If the Air Force starts claiming they were a part of the Army during the Pinks & Greens era to get in on that perfect getup (instead of that flight attendant costume), then we might have a problem.
What were we talking about again? Oh, yeah. Enjoy these memes.
It looks like everyone got promoted this month except for you. Tough break. Better luck next year.
But don’t worry, you’ll probably still get all of the new responsibilities as if you were promoted — just with none of the pay. And you’ll probably take over the old responsibilities of that douchebag that did get promoted instead of you because life sucks like that.
Oh well, maybe these memes will cheer you up. If not, there’s always booze.
(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)
(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)
(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
(Meme by WATM)
(Meme via Harambe)
(Meme via Military Memes)
Anyone who’s ever looked at a French history book knows that Phillipe Petain really was the outlier.
And most French people hate him. Not just for surrendering and creating the puppet state of Vichy France, but because he’s the sole reason why French military might is forever mocked.
Marines never change. We’re simple creatures. Whether it’s in the air, on the land, at sea, or in the outer reaches of space, we’re going to find a way to restrict everyone’s liberty by doing what we do best: getting drunk and fighting things.
Any place we go, you’ll know we were there. Not just because of the trail of destruction and bodies we leave in our wake, but because we’ve found a way to distinguish ourselves by looking and acting like the most primitive humans to ever exist in the modern era.
This type of thing will not change in space, no matter how far we go. Here are a few things that Marines will still do, even if we’re in the Andromeda system:
1. Get married to an alien stripper in their first month
Once we establish colonies on other planets, you know there will be tons of alien strip clubs and tattoo parlors set up just outside the gates of any military installation — and you know where they’ll get their business? The Space Force Marines. One of the FNGs is bound to fall in love with an alien stripper and marry it within a month of arriving on station.
It’ll become a competition to see who can hit someone on a planet’s surface from orbit.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
2. Throw space rocks at each other
When Marines get bored of waiting, they end up finding rocks to throw at each other. No, I’m not kidding. This is a popular pastime among Marines.
This won’t change, even if they’re in space. If anything, the lowered gravity will only make this more enjoyable.
We might even try to eat it.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
3. Find dangerous alien creatures to interact with
If you’ve ever been in a desert with Marines, then you know we’ve got some uncanny ability to find rattlesnakes and scorpions to play with. Here’s what would happen in the Space Force: Marines arrive on a new planet and find some kind of acid-spitting alien creature and decide it would be a good idea to pick it up and keep it as a pet.
Pro-tip: Don’t touch anything you aren’t familiar with.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
4. Eat strange, alien plants
There’s always that one Southern guy in your platoon who, while in a jungle, will just rip moss off trees and drink the water from it — or they’ll see some leafy plant and chew on it when they run out of tobacco.
Chances are, they’ll do the same on some distant planet.
The Mars rover already did it, but it lacked a human touch.
The American Legion was founded on March 15, 1919, with a charter by Congress to focus on service to veterans, service members, and communities. Today, with over 13,000 posts worldwide, membership stands at over 2 million — with a growing number of post-9/11 veterans joining.
All across the country, posts are pouring shots celebrating the centennial with pride.
“Veterans. Defense. Youth. Americanism. Communities.” The American Legion works every day to uphold its values. Just recently during the 2019 government shutdown, the Legion stepped up to help Coast Guard service members and their families with limited assistance.
Legion programs assist with youth sports and education, community projects and events, and support to non-profit organizations. Not only that, but posts often become a community of their own, providing companionship, service opportunities, and support for veterans after their service.
And not for nothing, but you can’t beat the bar tab if you’re a Legionnaire…
Congratulations to the American Legion – and thank you for one hundred years of support, community, and laughs.
Click here to find a celebration near you — and for all the service members out there who haven’t joined yet, I highly recommend checking out your local post.
Candlelit makeshift memorial on the steps of the US Supreme Court following the the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Wikimedia Commons)
My little girl has always been defiant, yet respectful. She’s opinionated, witty, and undeterred from any goal, plan, or scheme she sets out to pursue. She can wear down even the most hardened of resolves, with well-formed arguments and logical persuasions. She’s a lawyer in the making.
Rather than dampen that argumentative and determined spirit to fit within the bounds of responsible parenting, we hope to shape it using strong role models. So, we fill her bookshelf and Netflix queue with as many “Sheroes” as we can — including icons like Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, Amelia Earhart, and the Notorious RBG.
Two years ago, she chose to portray Justice Ginsburg in her school’s third grade Living Wax Museum. In a room full of Betsy Rosses and Babe Ruths, Hannah stood off to the far side as the sole, small, defiant RBG. She refused to break role even for a hug after her speech — completely dedicated to her assignment.
When I told her of Ruth’s passing the morning after we lost her, she still had most of her speech memorized. The importance of her death was not lost to my 10-year-old. Over the following days and weeks, we’ve had many conversations and reflections about the legacy of RBG, and the work left for us to pick up. I often pair these conversations with an embarrassing serenade of Hamilton’s “Dear Theodosia”; specifically, this refrain of hope:
If we lay a strong enough foundation We’ll pass it on to you, we’ll give the world to you And you’ll blow us all away
The foundation is laid, now we must make sure to pass it on. Here are eight lessons I hope to pass along to my daughter from the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Representation is vital and always worth fighting for.
“Women should be in all places where decisions are being made.” Yes, Ruth, yes. It is imperative to make sure that every perspective is heard and respected, and that is impossible to do without diversity of thought and experiences. I want my daughter to not only recognize imbalances of opinions but to seek out and welcome those on the margins — on the playground, a boardroom, elected office, or even Supreme Court bench.
Even if you’re the only one standing for what’s right, know that you can pave the way for others.
Have unrealistic expectations.
Justice Ginsburg herself recognized early in her life that becoming a judge as a woman was an “unrealistic expectation” but that didn’t deter her pursuit of advancing her career to its apex. Instead of being dismayed by cultural standards of the day, she set her sights on fairness and equality and never let the fact that she was the first, or only, limit her ambition.
Dream big, baby girl — don’t ever let the world dictate to you what’s possible.
Dissent respectfully and befriend the other.
Ginsburg is famously quoted as stating, “you can disagree without being disagreeable.” She’s also known for being friends with Justice Antonin Scalia, whose opinions and interpretations of the law often wildly opposed her own. I want my daughter to learn how to hold space for disagreement, discourse, and acceptance of “the other” in all aspects of her life — without losing sight of what she believes in and speaking up with respect and dignity.
Always remember that everyone is going through something.
Don’t ever be afraid to be yourself.
RBG’s small stature, demure presence, and unapologetically feminine attire was her own personal statement on inclusion. She didn’t attempt to earn admission to the “boys club” by becoming more masculine or conforming to a “safer” version of herself. She changed nothing, and steadily let her work speak to her deservedness. “My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent.”
Occupy all spaces with power and authenticity, sweetheart.
Be steadfast in your efforts and mindful of balance.
RBG set such a stellar example of resiliency. Decades of fighting cases centered around equality brought forth some huge wins, but also many defeats. This didn’t deter her efforts or weaken her resolve. With each dissent on cases she lost, or opinions on those she won, she was able to push the narrative ever forward. To find the stamina for a career that spanned her lifetime, she set aside time for things that made her happy, found balance, and took care of her body. She once said, “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”
The world will tell you that failure and setbacks aren’t ok. They’re lying. Always keep fighting for what you care about and learn when you fall short.
Choose your battles, and your words, wisely.
“Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.” We’re living in an age of noise and outrage, and are slowly losing the ability to debate respectfully and “argue” a point with impact. Some battles are worth fighting, but others won’t conclude in agreement or progress–no matter how right one is. I want my daughter to know when to speak, when to yell, and when to seek out better words.
But remember, always “speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.”
Have both brazen confidence and humility.
When asked why she chose to pursue law, RBG replied, “I became a lawyer for selfish reasons. I thought I could do a lawyer’s job better than any other.” And she was correct. There’s no shame in knowing who you are, what you’re good at, and that you deserve to pursue your dream. Her confidence didn’t grant her a free pass to success though, her curiosity and diligence did that.
Your confidence will be intimidating to some people. Don’t ever let their insecurities tempt you to become smaller.
Know that you are worthy of respect and admiration.
I want my daughter to know that she deserves nothing less than a partner that emphatically and sacrificially supports her. Ruth credits her late spouse, Marty, with unwavering support for her career, and adoration of her mind. “Whatever we do, we do it together.” I want my daughter to likewise only accept equality in a partner.
Find you a Marty, girl. Or, better yet, find someone like daddy.
What my daughter ultimately takes with her from my attempts to bestow some RBG wisdom to her, is yet to be seen. But when I asked her what she admired most about Justice Ginsburg, she wrote this:
Ruth Bader Ginsberg inspires me because she never gave up, and stood up for what she believes in. She famously said, “Fight for the things that you care about. But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” I think this means that you should fight for things you believe in, but don’t hurt others in the process. – Hannah Artis, 10
And you’ll blow us all away.
Ruth, parents of daughters — and sons — everywhere are thankful for the legacy that you leave behind.
In 1935, Billy Mitchell, former U.S. Army brigadier general and airpower advocate, testified before Congress that Alaska was the most strategic place in the world. From there, he said, U.S. Army aircraft could reach any capital in the northern hemisphere within nine hours.
Much of that flight time was over unoccupied polar ice, as only the most intrepid of explorers ventured high above the Arctic Circle.
As technology improved, the coming decades led to increased civilian and military activity over, under and on the Arctic ice sheet.
Today, however, it is environmental changes that are leading to increased activity above the Arctic Circle.
Citing a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Arctic Report Card, a Department of Defense report to Congress in June, 2019, stated, “The Arctic’s environment continues to change, including diminished sea ice coverage, declining snow cover and melting ice sheets. Temperatures across the Arctic region are increasing more than twice as fast as the global average…”
The result has been the opening of sea lanes year-round, increasing both Russian and Chinese civilian and military presence near U.S. borders and the borders of its allies.
As an Arctic presence enables global reach for whomever has this strategic access, Russia has been reopening, fortifying and building new military bases in the region.
While Russia’s presence in the region has been increasing, melting permafrost beneath some of the U.S. Air Force’s most remote satellite tracking and communications facilities threatens its capability to observe and respond to threats.
The accompanying video explores how the Air Force is addressing the challenge of maintaining a strategic advantage in the Arctic, as this northernmost arena for the great power competition becomes more and more accessible.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
Even to the other branches of service, the Navy can be a deep dark mystery of rates and rankings, Captains that have a lot of authority and wearing name tapes on your pants. But it doesn’t have to be that way. And one of the biggest questions posed by vets of other branches and civilians alike is just what the heck do all those letters on these ships mean anyway?
It means you’re in for a history lesson.
Hmmm… maybe not that far back.
In 1920, the Navy was producing so many new kinds of ships, they needed a better way to keep track of them all. So, acting Navy Secretary Robert Coontz decided to standardize a numbering system that included a two-letter code that would identify the ship and its status as well as its number in the series, type, and sub-type. If the ship didn’t have a sub-type, the first letter would just be repeated
So the Battleship USS Missouri, being a battleship with no sub-type and the 63rd ship in that series was designated USS Missouri BB-63.
Easy, right? Well, Mostly.
Welcome to the military, where nothing is really that easy.
That was the early 20th Century. World War I had only just introduced a number of new technological innovations to the battlefield, and there were a lot more to come. Training ships, aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and so, so much more were still to come to the U.S. Navy, and they would need even more designation letters, ones that would describe their purpose and even their power source.
So where do aircraft carriers get the designation CVN, as in the USS Gerald Ford CVN-78? The C is for carrier, and the N means it’s a nuclear-powered ship. The V, well, that’s not that simple. According to the publication “United States Naval Aviation 1910-1995, Appendix 16: US Navy and Marine Corps Squadron Designations and Abbreviations,” the V means it carries heavier-than-air aircraft (as opposed to, say, blimps), but no one really knows for sure why the letter V was chosen, though many believe it was to represent the French vol plané, the word for “glide.”
Meanwhile Russia’s carrier just smokes and slowly retains more water, like your mom.
But there is now more than a century’s worth of Naval Ship Designations for you to peruse, far too many for me to list in their entirety. There are even four-letter designations now, like the SSGN (Attack Submarine, Guided Missile, Nuclear Powered).
Luckily for the curious, there’s always Wikipedia, where someone took the time to list them all, including all the historical designations, like monitors and coastal defenses. Be sure to leave a tip.
He’s shaking his belly like a bowl full of jelly, even in the craziness that is this year. Despite all we’ve gone through this year, Santa remains a common bright spot for the ages. Even though most kids are taking pictures from afar this year, the magic of Santa still remains bright.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t poke a little fun along the way. Check out these favorite Santa memes and let them perk up your holiday season.
He’s such a spotlight ranger
We appreciate you too, elves!!
So many people need this in their lives
Dictionaries (and Spell Check!) for all!
Doesn’t sound like a bad gig TBH
Plus free milk and cookies. Where do I put my application?
This is the CUTEST
This dog made our whole Christmas.
This low-key freak out is the best
We love this kid!
This reminder to take credit for the expensive stuff
Spread the Santa joy equally!
Busting out that ameteur acting each year
THAT IS BRAND NEW INFORMATION
Why is this normal and accepted?
Time for a lyric change IMO
Every adult’s dream
This age-old question that’s never been answered
Your guess is as good as ours.
Rosy cheeks and ashy hair might be in all of our futures, but let’s hope it’s with Santa over personal experiences. After all, Santa is a beloved tradition for all ages and beliefs.
What’s your favorite way to celebrate Santa each year? Tell us below.
The branch rivalry can be mind-numbing at times. Each branch believes they’re the best while each has a unique role, making it impossible to objectively determine which is truly king. That’s where a battle royale comes in.
If you’re not living under a digital rock, then you know that “battle royales” are extremely popular in video games right now. In short, these types of games pit several players (or teams of players) against one another in a fight to scavenge, survive, and outlast the competition. And it got us thinking – what if the military hosted its own?
Imagine this: Each branch puts forth a five-person team (including a medic or corpsman) to compete against each other in a large, miserable training area. The teams must survive and fight against each other in a battle to earn the ultimate bragging rights for their respective branch.
Keep in mind, this is not a squad competition — each team would be given a certain amount of time, an area of operations, a number of MREs (with the ability to find resupply points), and either blanks or sesam rounds. There would be referees following or monitoring teams to keep battles fair.
But enough about the finer points, here’s why it should happen:
There could even be an award for the winning branch.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman Cameron Lewis)
Determine the best branch
The most obvious reason we should do this is because it would finally silence the pissing content. One branch would beat the others in competition, fair and square. Each branch put forth a team on a level playing field with an equal chance at winning — there’d be no room for excuses. Better luck next year.
Things like this build unique bonds.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kate Thornton)
It goes without saying that the members of a unit would form stronger bonds. But even in defeat, you can respect your opponent’s strengths. An activity like this would give each branch a chance to see the skills of each. Seeing what each branch is capable of could really help us acknowledge each other’s strengths.
This would bring everyone together in a way that is fun and interesting.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William Sykes)
In the Marine Corps, you build unit cohesion by having teams or squads compete against each other. No matter the activity, the real goal is to bring your troops closer together so they can build mutual trust. This would be the same idea — but on a much larger scale.
As it stands now, branches don’t really trust one another — mostly because they’re not sure if the others are as tough.
You can bring those lessons back to your unit so everyone can learn something.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Hailey D. Clay)
It could have great training value
When you’re forced into a situation, you have to improvise, adapt, and overcome. In learning how to best compete, you’ll learn about yourself.
Rodney Smith is gearing up for a trip to Alaska. He’s already been to all of the lower 48 U.S. states. He’s on a mission to provide free lawn care to the elderly, the disabled, single mothers, and veterans. He’s the founder of a nonprofit for youth which is aimed at community development.
He’s showing everyone in America his dedication to service, and he’s doing it the way he knows best: mowing lawns.
He is the founder of Raising Men Lawn Care Service, a way for young people to give back to their community while learning the ins and outs of the lawn-care industry. Smith doesn’t limit his services to mowing, just like any other lawn-care service. Raking leaves and shoveling snow are just a couple of the services he and his cadre of volunteers offer.
As he travels the United States, he takes requests, even going so far to post his phone number on Twitter. He mows lawns in the dark, just to get one more in for that day. He’ll even do what he calls a “mow by,” completing a lawn-care service for someone in need, even when they aren’t home.
Of course, it’s better if they’re home. Then the family can meet the incredible individual who enjoys giving back and mowing lawns so much he’ll go to disaster sites, like storm-stricken Virginia.
Smith started mowing lawns for free in 2015 after driving by an elderly man struggling to mow his lawn. He stopped his car, got out, and finished the lawn for the man.
“A small act of kindness grew into all this,” he says. “You never know what someone is going through and you touch them a certain way.”
After that act of kindness, he founded his nonprofit in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala. while he was working on a degree in computer science. He used to mow lawns in between classes, a challenge for his studies but one he took with zeal. Then, he challenged others to something similar. He wanted kids to mow 50 lawns after posting a photo of them accepting the 50-Yard Challenge.
“I show kids the importance of giving back to their community,” Smith says. He now boasts hundreds of volunteer lawn care experts through Raising Men. “At first they didn’t like it… but they see the smiles and it shows them a different side of life.“
They didn’t know it when the accepted the challenge, but Smith would present the kids with a new lawn mower upon completing their 50th yard.
He challenged himself again with the task of mowing “50 Yards in 50 States.” In 2017, he drove to all lower 48 states and flew to Alaska and Hawaii. In May, 2018, he started doing it all again, visiting 20 states within three weeks. He’s not just mowing one lawn in each state, either. He often mows up to four per day as he travels. And when he comes across those in need, he stops to hear their story and help out.
And now he finds himself with a different challenge.
In 2017, Smith traveled to all the major urban areas in Tennessee and Alabama, dressed as Santa Claus to deliver gifts to the area’s homeless population. For 2018, the big-hearted lawn mower said he wanted to go even bigger. On Nov. 26, 2018, he began another nationwide tour, to visit each state and meet with at least two people or groups who are homeless and deliver gifts that will make them happy.
He wants to deliver true Christmas cheer. Not content to give and take a photo before moving on, he wants to sit with them, talk, find out how they became homeless, and try to understand what the season means for them.
Rodney Smith covered the lower 48 states in just 22 days. As of Dec. 18, 2018, he was on his way to Alaska to continue his mission.
“Every day is tough when you’re homeless, but it’s terribly difficult this time of year – both physically and mentally,” Smith said. “If I can help make even a few people more comfortable and happy, I want to do it. It may sound crazy, but I believe if we all helped just one person where we live, the results would be astonishing.“
Having been married to someone in the military for almost a decade at this point, there are two things I learned quickly that will almost always be true. The first is that no matter what, there will always be at least one MRE somewhere in your house. The second, is that you will have to move. You will move a lot, you will move often, and there is a high likelihood you will have to move somewhere unfamiliar. While PCS and other forms of military travel are put on temporary hold right now, it can still be helpful to think of ways to make some of the more stressful, and sometimes more time consuming aspects, work for you.
Any move, military or otherwise, comes with obvious stressors and things to consider. From prospective jobs, future school districts, housing, and arguably the most stressful: trying to convince your friends to help pack the moving truck. While there are options in the military to have your things professionally packed and moved, my husband and I have always taken the more hands-on approach. Albeit more tedious, it has kind of become tradition for us. It gives us one last chance to say goodbye to friends we’ve made, pay them in pizza and beer and convince them that we really didn’t mean to pack some of those boxes so heavy.
I’ve gotten a lot of great advice from people over the years about the best way to adjust to a new duty station. It’s easier when you have built in ice breakers like school aged kids or more social hobbies, but overall, everyone learns to adjust in their own way. Something else that seemingly less significant or explored is the actual act of getting from point A to point B.
Even during the anxiety and uncertainty of our very first move, my favorite part of a PCS has always been hitting the road and making conscious efforts to plan our route in a memorable way. Our duty stations have been all over the country, so we’ve been able to cover some significant ground in a relatively short amount of time. There’s something about taking what is typically deemed more utilitarian and turning it into its own experience that really seems to feed the soul.
When I think about some of my favorite memories with my husband and kids, I think about our PCS roadtrips. Our oldest son visited the Grand Canyon and traveled through 23 states before his first birthday. We spent an entire day driving around Albuquerque, NM visiting filming locations from Breaking Bad, which admittedly was more of a personal bucket list item, but my husband had control of the radio that day, so we found a happy compromise.
Our youngest son travelled from Oregon to Louisiana before he was even born (nothing goes better with being seven months pregnant than driving 7 hours a day for a week straight). Both of our boys have managed to get really close to crossing off all 50 states since they’ve been our roadies. We’ve made our way through the good, the bad and the ugly of truck stops, hotels and roadside attractions–few things compare to some of those alien museums in Roswell, which really have the potential to encompass all three traits seamlessly.
We take the time before our move to look at a map and see what’s out there. Sure, there are days where it really is about getting up early and putting in those long hours to get some mileage under our belt, but we always try to counter that with something fun. Sometimes it can feel like “making the best out of a bad situation” if the move comes at an inopportune time, or there are outside factors at play.
One of the realities of being a military family is having a lot of things decided for you. That can seem like a daunting thing, and I would be lying if I said there weren’t times where it was really hard for us in one way or another.
At the end of the day it’s about looking for those silver linings in the inevitable. Taking stock in the situation and being able to make it into something you can look back on and appreciate having been in that place at that time. So many things in life are done with the outcome in mind, not the process. Military members and military families will undoubtedly spend a lot of time going from point A to point B, it comes with the territory. What that does however, is offer up the opportunity for adventure. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but sometimes it’s worth taking a detour.