By Bob Reinert/USAG-Natick Public AffairsNovember 7, 2011
Brian Williams has consumed his share of Meals, Ready to Eat.
So when the NBC News anchor visited the Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate at Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center on Nov. 4 to film a segment for his new "Rock Center with Brian Williams" newsmagazine, expected to air Monday, Nov. 14 at 10 p.m., he literally brought his own experiences to the table.
After his crew had set up a temporary TV studio in the middle of the Pilot Plant Kitchen, Williams arrived to discuss some of Combat Feeding's products, including the well-known MRE, with Lauren Oleksyk, team leader of the Food Processing, Engineering and Technology Team. Williams owns 11 Edward R. Murrow Awards, 12 Emmy Awards, the duPont-Columbia University Award, the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism, the George Foster Peabody Award, and -- it turns out -- a sophisticated palate when it comes to military food.
"I should probably tell you that I eat terribly," Williams said. "My car can't go past an Arby's without stopping."
Perhaps, but with his experience reporting in combat zones, Williams also was able to offer some tidbits about MREs and a few astute observations about Soldiers' dining habits in the field.
"Do you still make the classic applesauce?" Williams wanted to know. "The classic, armies-march-on-it applesauce?"
Williams said he had seen Soldiers find creative uses for Natick products.
"You know, I was with a guy who put coffee powder in his mouth and chased it with water," Williams said. "You know people are going to do strange things with everything you make here."
Such as Tabasco Sauce, which Williams watched Soldiers hoard because they weren't sure when they would get more of the precious, tiny bottles.
"So why not fill your pockets with Tabasco?" Williams said.
Williams and Lt. Col. Frank Sobchak, U.S. Army Garrison-Natick commander, clearly enjoyed swapping MRE stories on camera.
"Everyone has a favorite meal," Williams said to Sobchak. "What was yours?"
Sobchak told Williams that his weakness was Chicken Tortellini. Williams confided that he couldn't resist the Spaghetti with Meat Sauce.
"Another good thing?" Williams said. "The sliced pears. I would trade for those."
Ready for dessert? So was Williams.
"Let's talk about pound cake," Williams said. "You will trade your car back home, an assumable mortgage and your significant other for a (chocolate) mint pound cake."
When his producer informed him that they had to catch a flight back to New York to prepare for the "NBC Nightly News" that he would anchor that evening, Williams uttered a fitting response.
"So much apple sauce,'' said Williams, "so little time."