Last year, on a visit to LSA Anaconda, the largest US base in Iraq, I was taken
to one of its dining facilities that serves up to 1,000 people at a sitting. It
was run by Houston-based KBR, the former subsidiary of Halliburton. Here's what
KBR made available for an ordinary breakfast: baked bacon, creamed beef, pork
sausage patties, turkey sausage links, plain omelets, scrambled eggs, hash
browns, grits/oatmeal, buttermilk biscuits, French toast, waffles, assorted
yogurts, muffins, doughnuts, and coffee cake.
For lunch, there was cream of mushroom soup, crackers, roast turkey, prime rib,
savory dressing, mashed potatoes, steamed
broccoli, seasoned mixed vegetables, seasoned dressing, sweet potato, turkey
gravy, brown gravy, assorted breads, cranberry sauce, horseradish sauce and
The dinner menu included cream of mushroom soup, crackers, roast pork loin,
lasagna/egg plant parmesan, garlic roasted potatoes, steamed rice, seasoned
succotash, Harvard beets, onion gravy, parmesan cheese, apple sauce, assorted
breads, and hot rolls.
At both lunch and dinner, there was a short-order chef offering hamburgers,
cheeseburgers, frankfurters, BBQ beef pocket sandwiches, grilled cheese, French
fries, onion rings, baked beans, chips and condiments, cold cut sandwiches,
tuna salad sandwiches, egg rolls, buffalo wings, and grilled sandwiches.
Wander over to the "dessert bar" any day, and you'll find apple pie, pumpkin
pie, pecan pie, chocolate cake, and several different kinds of cookies. An
Easter menu I came across offered holiday specials like Cornish hen, grilled
trout, chocolate-covered bunnies, and Easter eggs.
All this was accompanied by a salad bar, a soft drink station provided by
Rastelli Global, a hot and cold food buffet, a soup station, drink fridges
sponsored by Sprite and stacked with juices from Cargill and milk from Nada, a
dessert bar, and ice cream freezers emblazoned with a Baskin Robbins logo
(although the ice cream turned out to be Kuwaiti).
On every table were the sauces you might find at a roadside diner in the United
States: Texas Pete Hot Sauce, A1 Steak Sauce, and McIlhenny Tabasco. The orange
marmalade and breakfast syrup were from Heinz of Pittsburgh, and the little
honey packets from Mason, Ohio. Peeking outside the dining facilities you could
see the delivery vehicles - giant Mercedes Benz trucks with Thermo King
Refrigeration containers driven by workers from countries as diverse as Egypt,
Fiji, and Sri Lanka.
These dining facilities are free for soldiers. Most big US bases also have a
"mini mall" where you can find fast-food chains serving in-between meals or
offering a change from KBR's daily food. Even these Burger Kings, KFCs,
McDonald's, Pizza Huts, and Subway sandwich shops, as well as the Green Beans
Coffee stores, are run efficiently by polite Indian and Filipino migrant
workers, who serve up espresso chai latte and mocha frappe's or personalized
pan pizzas and Whoppers to the soldiers.
At Anaconda's military supermarket, operated by the Army and Air Force Exchange
Service (AAFES), soldiers can stock up on anything from cookies to Bitburger
non-alcoholic beer, Sony PlayStations to - believe it or not - mountain bikes.
The menus at Anaconda would, of course, astonish a World War II soldier who
would have subsisted on canned Spam, powdered eggs, powdered milk, powdered
coffee, and the like. Even soldiers in the First Persian Gulf War in 1991 ate
Meals Ready to Eat out of a pouch, including chicken stew, corned beef hash,
and pork with rice and barbecue sauce washed down with a bottle of water, or
they still ate the older-style A, B, or T rations prepared from semi-perishable
or canned food by Army cooks.
Welcome to McArmy! A million meals served in Afghanistan and Iraq every day.
Pratap Chatterjee is the author of Halliburton's Army: How A
Well-Connected Texas Oil Company Revolutionized the Way America Makes War.
He is the managing editor of CorpWatch.