Everyone has they’re favorite (Meatballs in Marinara Sauce Gang) and their least favorite. Everyone speculates about what secret additives are in the chewing gum and of course the debate over whether its best to eat the “main” or just the snacks. While Soldiers and Marines may see MREs as part of life, some people on YouTube collect and sample MREs and other similar military rations as a hobby. Meet SteveMRE1989, a YouTuber with more than 900,000 subscribers who makes videos of himself trying out military rations from around the world and from different eras. I was lucky enough to interview Steve via Facebook messenger and learn a little about him, his hobby, and military rations in general.
Joe: So first, how did you get into reviewing and collecting military rations? Did you serve in the military? Did your family?
Steve: I first got into military rations at the age of 8 years old. Always loved anything military as a kid – got my first case in 1997 and it was a case of 1993’s. I never served. Just a landscaper – picked up in the family business (started apprenticing at 14 years old and am now 29) and still work it part-time. Both my grandfathers were Military Policeman in WW2. One in the Philippines and the other was in France. And my great grandfathers all served in WW1. And down the line all the way back to the Civil War and the Revolutionary War I have ancestors who fought. But the cycle ended with my father who was lucky enough not to get drafted in Vietnam.
Joe: Do you remember the first ration you tried?
Steve: First menu I had – I specifically remember it. Ham Slices. I couldn’t figure out how to work the FRH (Flameless ration heater). So I just ate it cold and loved it. The second menu I had was Tuna w Noodles. Also ate it cold and didn’t care. it was what heroes ate is what I thought. And honestly thought they just ate them cold. The FRH made no sense to me at the time – I had no idea what it was. I didn’t mind. The fact that it was food that soldiers were eating was good enough for me and I loved the desserts. Everything about them.
Joe: What are some of the most memorable rations you’ve tried? Oldest, weirdest stuff like that.
Steve: The most memorable rations I have tried are:
- 1899 Boer War – Emergency Ration Field Service.
- K rations from WW2 (I own over a dozen more and will be reviewing multiple generations spanning from 1942,43,44,45)
Hardtack from the Civil War (1863)
- WW2 British Royal Airforce Emergency Flying Ration (1944) (Benzedrine an old amphetamine was included in this ration – needless to say, I did not try that part)
- I will be reviewing two different WW1 rations shortly – the US Army Emergency Ration and the Reserve Ration.
- I have tried German Wehrmacht packed Scho Ka Kola from WW2 and also tried Wehrmacht tax stamped Atikah Turkish cigarettes from the era as well.
- WW2 Australian (A.M.F) 02′ Operation Ration
- C rations from WW2, Korean War, and Vietnam War
- 1957 5 in 1 Small Detachment – a 5 man 24 hour ration that included things like 5 20ct packs of Camels (best cigarettes I have ever smoked – they don’t make em as they used to), canned bread and peanut butter, cocoa, the canned meat items were spoiled including the canned bacon which was not sampled.
- I have tried modern rations from around the world – – France, Italy (Italian rations 2 of the 7 menus have a shot of cordial alcohol), Spain, Finland, Chile, Canada, Russia, China, Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, UK, Latvia, and more.
Joe: You mentioned in one of your videos that opening the old rations can be dangerous, why is that? Do you have some specialized training?
Steve: Opening old cans that are swelled and shooting old food all over the place – it can be dangerous. This is a sure sign of botulism. Something that can survive with little to no oxygen, it can be ingested or introduced via cuts from a sharp can, or even inhaled. You must wear the proper hand, eye, and breathing protection from this sort of thing. I don’t have official training – just hands-on experience and common sense
Joe: There are other military ration personalities on YouTube, I think you’ve even given some a shout out. Is there a community centered around collecting military rations?
Steve: There is indeed a ration community. There is a website and forum — www.MREinfo.com.
That is a fantastic group of folks who all work together to collaborate information on rations and also to work deals and trades with each other to acquire the rations we look for.
There are also other reviewers. Like gschultz9, gundog4314, RC Gusto, Oldsmokey, Crombat Rations, Delicious, Emmymadeinjapan, Kiwi Dude, Ol’ Mate Dropbear, BTemple, Elandil, and Stickyfingaz745 and new ones introduced all the time to YouTube. Those ones listed there are all great and many of them are personal friends of mine who have helped me along the way. People like gschultz who has been reviewing MRE’s on YT for six years. He gave me my first shoutout early on and those 150 or so subscribers that came to the channel were huge. Stuff like that you never forget and I always will look up to him. Really – all those guys I listed are great people. They have all helped in ways that I will always appreciate.
Joe: You’ve reviewed several current US rations. What is the US military getting right and what needs work, in your improvement.
Steve: With U.S. rations – it is amazing how they get such a bad rap. The U.S. MRE is a feat of food engineering and the people at Natick Food Labs should be so proud of what they have created. But there is still room for improvement. Like adding a third case adding 12 new menus. There needs to be a case C – with more breakfast menus and a wider menu variation. Perhaps reducing the usage of artificial food coloring in drink mixes and removing aspartame sweetener. Replacing some of the sugar content with less crash-inducing calories. Perhaps a higher nutrient content in some of the components.
But this sort of thing is speculative as the guys at Natick know what they are doing and they also know the U.S. government will only spend so much on contracts for how much and how expensive a ration will cost. But one thing is for certain and I am sure most will agree – the small amount of toilet paper given is just inhumane. Whoever thought that was enough toilet paper must really not worry all too much about morale.
*photo courtesy of DVIDS
Author – Joseph LaFave