CAMP SENDAI, Japan - MREs (meal ready to eat) are issued to soldiers in a field-training environment, mainly for long shelf life and ability to be hastily prepared. U.S soldiers often think of MREs as a dissatisfying substitute for a home cooked meal, but for Mr. Iga, a local employee of the Tohoku Defense Bureau and Mr. Yukinao Kitahara of the South Kauto Defense Bureau, it was a new and exciting experience.
The two gentlemen visited Camp Sendai with several hundred other prefectural officials to observe and participate in the Yama Sakura 63 exercise. While there, Mr. Stephen Lowell, U.S Army Japan, host nation relations officer, invited Iga and Kitahara for a luncheon and provided the opportunity for them to eat their first MRE.
Kitahara works closely with Lowell on a frequent basis and is in charge of advertising to the public the U.S military's involvement in Japan.
"It's beneficial for him to see what the U.S. military is doing. He is able to explain our position and has an actual insight on what we do daily - even the food we eat," Lowell said.
Sgt. Anthony Jones, public affairs sergeant, 118th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, instructed Iga and Katahara on how to prepare the meals.
"It was really impressive to see their enthusiasm and interest for our military culture," Jones said.
There were several moments of humor for Jones while observing the two gentlemen eat.
"At one point, Kitahara poured the entire packet of chili powder on the pork entrée; his face turned red and he immediately began to cough," said Jones. "He also put grape jelly, cheese, and animal crackers onto one piece of wheat bread. It was pretty amazing."
After the meal, Lowell and Jones asked the two gentlemen to share their thoughts on eating the MREs. They not only talked about the food alone, but also mentioned their awareness for the environment.
"It's easy to eat in a very short amount of time, but there was not enough bread. If you are very green-friendly conscious, there is a lot of waste involved in eating the MRE," Kitahara said.
"The pound cake was my favorite food item. It was sweet, so the Japanese women would enjoy it as well," Iga said.