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The Food Packet, Long Range Patrol or "LRP ration" (pronounced "Lurp") was a U.S. Army freeze-dried dehydrated field ration. It was developed in 1964 during the Vietnam War (1959–75) for use by Special Operations troops---small, heavily armed long-range reconnaissance teams that patrolled deep in enemy-held territory, where bulky canned MCI rations (formerly known as C rations) proved too heavy for extended missions afoot.[1]

Origins[edit | edit source]

Before the outbreak of World War II, Army commanders had recognized the inadequacy of heavy canned wet rations when employed for infantry marching on long patrols, especially in extreme environments such as mountain or jungle terrain. To this end, the Jungle ration was developed and briefly issued during early World War II. The Jungle Ration was a dry, lightweight mulch-component daily meal that could be stored in light waterproof bags, easily carried by a foot soldier, and which would not spoil when exposed to heat and humidity for an extended period of time. Importantly, the Jungle ration was specifically designed to provide an increased amount of dietary energy despite its lighter weight, ideal for a soldier operating in difficult jungle terrain on foot while carrying all of his equipment on his back. By all accounts the Jungle Ration was successful, however, cost concerns led to its replacement, first by substitution of increasingly heavier and less expensive canned components, followed by complete discontinuance in 1943.[2]

After the war, U.S. army logisticians again re-standardized field rations, eliminating all lightweight rations in favor of heavy canned wet rations such as the C ration and the Meal, Combat, Individual ration. The overuse of heavy canned wet rations reached a ludicrous extreme during the early years of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war, when American soldiers on extended infantry patrol were forced to stack their canned rations in socks to minimize weight and noise.[3]

In response, the Food Packet, Individual, Combat (FPIC), was developed in the early 1960s, though not issued in the field until 1966. The FPIC was designed to be nutritious, lightweight, and easily portable, the descendant of the dehydrated rations used by NASA's astronauts. The ration was originally a response to complaints about the weight of the canned ration. Carrying a multi-day supply of heavy wet canned MCI or C-rations, "a special operations team could become virtually immobile due to the weight of needed supplies. Mobility and stealth are decreased when loads become too heavy, and the soldier is too often worn down by midday. Fatigue affects alertness, making him more vulnerable to detection and error."[4] The ration's final 11 ounces (310 g) weight was a compromise between the original packet's target weight of 5 ounces (140 g) and the base 1 pound (0.45 kg) target weight of the larger experimental Meal, Ready-to-Eat, Individual (MRE-I), a forerunner of the later MRE.[5]

The ration differed from the standard wet-pack Meal, Combat, Individual (MCI) in that it was a freeze-dried, vacuum-packed individual ration meal weighing 11 ounces (310 g) packed in a waterproof grey-green canvas envelope lined with aluminum foil.[6] Due to its discovered tendency to spoil in a wet or humid environment (i.e., all of South-east Asia), later ration packs came enclosed in an outer zip-lock clear-plastic bag to keep out the moisture. This drawback made it less than desirable as a standard ration.

Contents[edit | edit source]

LRP rations of the mid-1960s were packed in a large cardboard box of twenty-four meals in eight varieties: 1) Beef hash, 2) Beef and rice, 3) Beef stew, 4) Chicken and rice, 5) Chicken stew, 6) Chili con carne, 7) Pork and scalloped potatoes, and 8) Spaghetti with meat sauce. Each meal came in a tinfoil packet covered with olive-drab cloth, with a brown-foil accessory packet. The accessory packet contained instant coffee (2 packets), cream substitute (1 4-gram packet), sugar (1 6-gram packet), salt (1 packet), Candy-Coated Gum (2 pieces), toilet paper, a book of cardboard matches, and a pack of 4 commercial-grade cigarettes (eliminated in 1975). There was also either a compressed fruitcake bar or a tropical chocolate bar.[7]

Although compact, the LRP daily ration was 'energy depleted'. That is, it supplied 5 kilojoules less energy per day than the MCI.[8]

Criticisms[edit | edit source]

As it was a freeze-dried (dehydrated) ration, it required 1.5 pints (700 ml) of water to cook and reconstitute it. This was normally not a problem in environments where water supplies were generally plentiful.[9] However, the water sources in Vietnam were usually teeming with parasites (e.g., blood flukes and tapeworms) and viruses, so the water had to be boiled or mixed with Iodine pills, the latter leaving a particularly odd taste in a ration. Fresh water could also be collected from rainwater if one was fortunate enough, or in an emergency, a LRP ration could be consumed 'dry', but the soldier doing so had to consume extra water to prevent dehydration.[10] Some soldiers mixed its contents with canned C-Rations to reduce monotony and to supply extra dietary energy, as the ration was insufficient for an active soldier. However, this defeated the purpose of deploying the LRP ration in the first place.

Food Packet, Long Range Patrol[edit | edit source]

Due to these drawbacks, the original concept of its wide adoption was shelved in favor of its limited use by Special Operations units like the Long Range Patrols, Special Forces, and Navy SEALs. It then acquired the new designation of Food Packet, Long Range Patrol (LRP), also known as "Lurp meals" or "long rats". Production was limited to 5 million units in 1967, rising to just 9 million in 1968.[11] It was considered a novelty by line soldiers, who usually "acquired" as many as they could before going on field operations.

The LRP ration continued to be procured in small quantities until the mid-1980s, when it was replaced by a thermo-stabilized ration, the Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE). Quartermaster Command and Army Food Services viewed the new ration as a suitable replacement for issue in all combat environments. Despite the long history of operational failures previously encountered in standardizing on a single type of individual ration,[12] the new MRE was duly adopted with the intention of replacing all the field rations and ration supplements in use.

Revisions[edit | edit source]

While the MRE was lighter than the canned MCI and had more dietary energy than the LRP ration, it had certain problems. US Special Operations forces found it too bulky and troops on maneuvers found some menu items were unsuited for easy digestion in cold weather / high-altitude or high-temperature / high-humidity environments. While unofficial practice was to strip out items deemed "unnecessary", this also reduced the ration's dietary energy content. Faced with these problems, this forced the adoption of a specialized ration for light troops or commando units on extended field operations.[12]

In 1994, a new version of the LRP ration called the LRP-I (Food Packet, Long-Range Patrol - Improved) was created. It was an 11 ounces (310 g) ration that came in a brown plastic retort pouch that allowed the user to reconstitute and cook the ration directly in the pouch. This was an improvement over the earlier LRP packet, which had to be boiled or soaked in a canteen cup or other cookware.

In 2001, the LRP-I was merged with the Meal, Cold-Weather (MCW) ration to create the consolidated MCW/LRP ration. As in years past, this was done in order to further standardize supply and save costs, as both were considered compact, high-energy meals that were designed for use by active soldiers in the field. The meal weighs 1 pound (500 g) and comes in 12 different entrees.

The meals differ only in the accessory packs. One is geared for use by light infantry and commando units operating in temperate or hot climates and comes in brown or tan packaging. The other is geared more for use in cold weather or high altitudes and comes in white packaging.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Ankony, Robert C., Lurps: A Ranger's Diary of Tet, Khe Sanh, A Shau, and Quang Tri, revised ed., Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Landham, MD (2009) p. 70.
  2. Kearny, Cresson H., Jungle Snafus...And Remedies, Oregon Institute (1996), pp. 288-291
  3. Kearny, Cresson H., Jungle Snafus...And Remedies, Oregon Institute (1996), pp. 286-288
  4. White, Terry, The SAS Fighting Techniques Handbook, Globe Pequot Press (2007), ISBN 1-59921-081-9, ISBN 978-1-59921-081-0, p. 28
  5. http://qmfound.com/operational_rations_current_future_1963.html
  6. White, Terry, The SAS Fighting Techniques Handbook, Globe Pequot Press (2007), ISBN 1-59921-081-9, ISBN 978-1-59921-081-0, pp. 27-28
  7. Ankony, p. 271.
  8. White, Terry, ‘’The SAS Fighting Techniques Handbook’’, Globe Pequot Press (2007), ISBN 1-59921-081-9, ISBN 978-1-59921-081-0, pp. 27-28
  9. King, Nancy, Nutritional Needs in Cold and High-Altitude Environments: Applications for Military Personnel in Field Operations, sub. Cold-Weather Field Feeding: Military Rations, Institute of Medicine (1996): In addition to tropical and jungle environments, dehydrated rations are frequently issued to troops in alpine or high mountain terrain, where supplies of water or melted snow may be used to reconstitute the meal.
  10. Ankony, p.70.
  11. Kearny, pp. 286-288
  12. 12.0 12.1 Kearny, pp. 286-291

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