Why Can’t Sailors Make Their Own Food Choices?
The United States Navy has gone on a diet. While deployed on ship, sailors will no longer be served any fried foods. Whole milk is also gone.
While this may seem like a good idea at face value, it shows a gross misunderstanding of calorie needs while underway. The US Navy standards for high activity jobs recommends over 4,000 calories per day to fuel the activities these personnel perform, and when ramping up for a mission even higher amounts are suggested.
I worked in the ship’s engine rooms while in the Navy. We had a 6 on 6 off rotation, meaning every six hours we were working in “The Pit” as we not so lovingly called it. We burnt a lot of energy just doing our jobs, and we had very limited time to “refuel”. In our two 6 hour off periods we had to shower, eat, get some sleep, work on repairs we couldn’t do on our normal “on” period, and anything else we needed or wanted to do.
While burgers and fries may not seem like a healthy choice, they are easy to prepare and simple to eat. When you have a carrier that can hold between 5,000 and 7,500 people, you have to get the food out fast and have it ready for many hours.
Also, even when pressed for time, my shipmates and I would often make healthier choices because eating the same thing gets old. The term “sliders” actually started in the military, referring to burgers, because they were so greasy they would slide from one end to the other. Sailors know that fried food is not always good for them, and they choose accordingly.
Additionally, most of the ship’s crew took time to do some form of exercise outside of their work schedule. Even when we weren’t actively working out, just getting anywhere on the ship usually required going up or down a few ladders. which burns up fat as well. When I was on watch in the engine room, I had to use six sets of ladders every half hour. On top of all this, over 40% of enlisted personnel are aged 25 or younger, when most people have an exceptionally high metabolism and need more calories in a day even when not very active.
Even though the White House denies it, I am sure the poorly thought out changes in school lunches prompted this effort. While a more structured diet may have merit in elementary school, grown men and women in the military should be given credit for having the brain power and strength of will to make good meal decisions.
I am going to hazard a guess that the person or people responsible for these new dietary practices has not spent one minute shipboard, seeing the activity level of deployed sailors. It is insulting enough that men can be drafted at age 18 but can’t have a drink until they are 21. Why are those entrusted with defending our country not even allowed to choose a diet that will serve their readiness needs?