NATICK, Mass. -- Knowing what to eat based on the mission is critical to optimizing warfighter performance and lethality. This is the central idea behind two new ration guides developed by the Combat Feeding Directorate, or CFD, at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.

CFD has developed and published two pocket-sized reference guides, providing crucial information about nutrition, ration choice, and warfighter performance.

One guide is entitled "Warfighter's Guide to Performance Nutrition" and the other is entitled "Leader's Guide to Operational Rations."

The development of the guides was based on warfighter feedback and the expertise of NSRDEC CFD and the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, or USARIEM. NSRDEC CFD and USARIEM are known for their extensive knowledge of warfighter performance optimization and nutrition.

"These are nonmaterial solutions designed to educate and inform decisions around nutritional behavior and ration choice," said Jeremy Whitsitt, CFD deputy director.

The leader's guide talks about individual rations and mission specific information, enabling a leader to choose the most effective ration for the mission and to meet warfighter needs. The guide also helps with logistical concerns since it helps leaders better determine what rations they should order.

"The guide provides nutritional data, ration weight and water requirements," said Jeannette Kennedy, CFD technical advisor. "It gives them a logistical point of view so they can better plan for warfighter needs and find out what options are available to them."

An example Kennedy used was a leader conducting a short duration, highly mobile, dismounted mission could use the booklet to examine the data and determine that the First-Strike Ration may be best for his or her particular mission.

"It allows them to compare calories, menu variety, and gives them a National Stock Number for ordering," said Kennedy. "The guide contains a table that serves as a great visual tool. This is for leaders who will be making the decisions and doing the ordering, and it enables them to ensure they are getting the proper rations."

The second guide, made for the warfighter, gives individuals an increased awareness about their food choices.

"The book for the warfighter provides them an overview of performance nutrition and tells them how to get the maximum benefit, explaining the roles of proteins, carbohydrates and fat," said Kennedy.

"It's organized to check their knowledge, and then to take that knowledge, analyze what they have available, and make an action plan."

The guide is an important tool for warfighters.

"Food affects the warfighter every day and we want to give them knowledge to empower them to make good decisions," said Kennedy.

The transfer of knowledge from NSRDEC to the warfighter is part of a larger effort. NSRDEC and USARIEM have been working with Curriculum Development and Education at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, or USASMA, to get more information directly into the hands of the Soldier.

The information in the guides will be eventually incorporated into the academy's Point of Instructions, or POIs.

"As NSRDEC learns something that's going to make Soldiers more capable during its studies, it is now becoming common behavior to try and transition that relevant knowledge directly to leaders and Soldiers as soon possible," said Rick Haddad, assistant deputy chief of staff, G3/5, Operations and Plans, NSRDEC. "With so many ways to deliver or implement knowledge products directly to the unit, whether electronically or maybe through virtual or augmented reality, the days of waiting for a final report to be composed and disseminated is now a less optimal approach. Building this type of behavior into NSRDEC's processes is in line with the Chief of Staff of the Army's guidance and modernization objectives."

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The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Centeris part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.