Even your least favorite MRE may be preferable to some of the food National Guardsmen are apparently being served while stationed at the U.S. Capitol.
More than a dozen Michigan lawmakers say troops with the Michigan National Guard have been served “badly undercooked, raw, moldy” meals, with some even dining on food “filled with metal shavings,” according to a letter addressed to National Guard Chief Gen. Daniel Hokanson. The unsavory food was first reported by The Detroit News.
“The members of the National Guard have served honorably throughout the duration of this operation,” the letter says. “We must never turn our backs on our soldiers, especially as they have demonstrated time and time again that [they] haven’t turned [their] backs on us.”
According to The Detroit News, a soldier reported to one of the Michigan lawmakers last month that multiple soldiers “have been getting sick and vomiting after eating,” and that morale “is very bad.” And the problem doesn’t appear limited to just Michigan guardsmen: one lawmaker said troops from other states say the food situation has “improved” but is still “far from perfect.”
Congress has kept a watchful eye on the Guard ever since the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, especially after photos of guardsmen sleeping in a congressional parking garage surfaced later that same month and drew swift backlash from a bipartisan group of lawmakers.
This time, Guardsmen are “being hospitalized due to the food they are being provided,” according to the most recent letter from lawmakers. National Guard spokesman Wayne Hall denied there had been any hospitalizations, but said around 50 soldiers had been “treated for gastrointestinal complaints,” with six being “treated as outpatients at military treatment facilities.”
“The National Guard continues to closely monitor the quality and safety of meals provided to its personnel,” Hall said.
Hall acknowledged problems with the food being served and said the Guard had “taken steps to improve food quality” through spot checks and inspections of kitchens for safety and cleanliness. The Guard is “working with the contractors to address concerns,” Hall said, and vendor facilities “have been inspected multiple times” with “no substantial issues” being recorded.
“Contracting personnel visit the D.C. Armory daily during the delivery of meals,” Hall added. “We observe the deliveries, take pictures of the meals and talk to soldiers on the line about the food they get.”
Acting Army Secretary John Whitley was first notified of the problem two weeks ago on Feb. 17 by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, The Detroit News reported.
The food at the Capitol even earned a write-up from Chaps at Barstool Sports’ influential military blog Zero Blog Thirty, who put Sgt. Maj. the Army Michael Grinston on blast over Twitter on Tuesday night.
“The Army and the National Guard have a great amount of leeway here that they aren’t using,” Chaps wrote. “The National Guard and its spokespeople aren’t in some forward-deployed area and relying on contracted work from other countries on this mission. They don’t have to concern themselves with international logistics in order to provide meals to the soldiers currently assigned in Washington, DC. There is no food shortage in DC.”
Grinston told Task & Purpose he is “working closely” with Whitley and senior leaders from the National Guard and is “confident in the immediate, preventative actions” being taken.
An unnamed National Guard spokesperson told CNN that over 1.2 million meals have been served to troops since the beginning of the mission at the Capitol, and they’ve discovered “the appearance of uncooked meals” in .01% of them. The spokesperson also added that if any of the guardsmen aren’t satisfied with the meals they’re receiving, there are “tens of thousands of MREs at the ready.”
But that hasn’t satisfied lawmakers like Rep. Gregory Murphy (R-N.C.), who demanded answers on what kind of food Guardsmen are being served.
“These incidents have apparently become so prevalent that those deployed have to spend their own money, without a promise per diem, on daily meals,” Murphy wrote in a letter to Hokanson and Whitley. “There is ample photo evidence to prove this horrible mismanagement of basic nutrition and it led up to 75 meals being thrown out last Sunday.” (Army officials have denied meals were thrown out.)
This isn’t the first time service members have been served meals that are less than ideal. Marines in Japan were served moldy sandwiches during their mandatory 14-day quarantine last August, and a Navy veteran exposed the nauseating food sailors and Marines were being served aboard different aircraft carriers over a period of three years in October.
Nevertheless, I don’t expect we’ll see much about this in the next National Guard recruiting campaign.
Featured photo: U.S. Army Pfc. Rebekah Bouman, left, and Sgt. Benjamin Stroll, both military policemen with the 46th Military Police Company, Michigan National Guard, stand watch near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Feb. 23, 2021. (U.S. Army National Guard/Sgt. 1st Class R.J. Lannom Jr.)