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Inheriting Halliburton's Army

Can the U.S. military Obama has now inherited do anything without KBR?

| Thu Feb. 19, 2009 11:16 AM PST

Special Feature: What U.S. Soldiers Eat

Welcome to McArmy!


By Pratap Chatterjee

Last year, on a visit to LSA Anaconda, the largest U.S. base in Iraq, I was taken to one of its dining facilities that serves up to 1,000 people at a sitting. It was run by Houston-based KBR, the former subsidiary of Halliburton. Here's what KBR made available for an ordinary breakfast: baked bacon, creamed beef, pork sausage patties, turkey sausage links, plain omelets, scrambled eggs, hash browns, grits/oatmeal, buttermilk biscuits, French toast, waffles, assorted yogurts, muffins, doughnuts, and coffee cake.

For lunch, there was cream of mushroom soup, crackers, roast turkey, prime rib, savory dressing, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, seasoned mixed vegetables, seasoned dressing, sweet potato, turkey gravy, brown gravy, assorted breads, cranberry sauce, horseradish sauce and cornbread.

The dinner menu included cream of mushroom soup, crackers, roast pork loin, lasagna/egg plant parmesan, garlic roasted potatoes, steamed rice, seasoned succotash, Harvard beets, onion gravy, parmesan cheese, apple sauce, assorted breads, and hot rolls.

At both lunch and dinner, there was a short order chef offering hamburgers, cheeseburgers, frankfurters, BBQ beef pocket sandwiches, grilled cheese, French fries, onion rings, baked beans, chips and condiments, cold cut sandwiches, tuna salad sandwiches, egg rolls, buffalo wings, and grilled sandwiches.

Wander over to the "dessert bar" any day, and you'll find apple pie, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, chocolate cake, and several different kinds of cookies. An Easter menu I came across offered holiday specials like Cornish hen, grilled trout, chocolate-covered bunnies, and Easter eggs.

All this was accompanied by a salad bar, a soft drink station provided by Rastelli Global, a hot and cold food buffet, a soup station, drink fridges sponsored by Sprite and stacked with juices from Cargill and milk from Nada, a dessert bar, and ice cream freezers emblazoned with a Baskin Robbins logo (although the ice cream turned out to be Kuwaiti). On every table were the sauces you might find at a roadside diner in the United States: Texas Pete Hot Sauce, A1 Steak Sauce, and McIlhenny Tabasco. The orange marmalade and breakfast syrup were from Heinz of Pittsburgh, and the little honey packets from Mason, Ohio. Peeking outside the dining facilities you could see the delivery vehicles—giant Mercedes Benz trucks with Thermo King Refrigeration containers driven by workers from countries as diverse as Egypt, Fiji, and Sri Lanka.

These dining facilities are free for soldiers. Most big U.S. bases also have a "mini mall" where you can find fast-food chains serving in-between meals or offering a change from KBR's daily food. Even these Burger Kings, KFCs, McDonald's, Pizza Huts, and Subway sandwich shops, as well as the Green Beans Coffee stores, are run efficiently by polite Indian and Filipino migrant workers, who serve up espresso chai latté and mocha frappés or personalized pan pizzas and Whoppers to the soldiers.

At Anaconda's military supermarket, operated by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), soldiers can stock up on anything from cookies to Bitburger nonalcoholic beer, Sony PlayStations to—believe it or not—mountain bikes.

The menus at Anaconda would, of course, astonish a World War II soldier who would have subsisted on canned Spam, powdered eggs, powdered milk, powdered coffee, and the like. Even soldiers in the First Persian Gulf War in 1991 ate Meals Ready to Eat out of a pouch, including chicken stew, corned beef hash, and pork with rice and barbecue sauce washed down with a bottle of water, or they still ate the older-style A, B, or T rations prepared from semi-perishable or canned food by Army cooks.

Welcome to McArmy! A million meals served in Afghanistan and Iraq every day.

Copyright 2009 Pratap Chatterjee

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