Monday, February 07, 2005

Comfort Food in Iraq

The AP is reporting this afternoon that US soldiers are turning to fast food outlets in Iraq. It seemed that in grandad's day, the camp followers weren't serving up Whoppers with extra cheese (and what will the diet-crazy AMA say about that?):

Pass the ammunition and a slice of pizza. U.S. soldiers in Iraq spend hours -- sometimes days -- on patrol hunting insurgents and dodging roadside bombs. But when they get back to base, they can pick up a case of Dr. Pepper, buy the latest DVD and take a Pizza Hut meal back to the room to relax after a hard day at war.

A soldier's life isn't what it used to be.

Commanders say providing a good quality of life is essential to keeping volunteer troops in the military. Having a chance to skip the mess hall and go to Pizza Hut, Burger King or Subway -- Popeye's Fried Chicken and Taco Bell will be added this month -- makes a big difference, soldiers say.

"I think it's great. The dining facility gets old after a while," said Spc. William Oates, 25, a 1st Cavalry Division soldier from Asheboro, N.C., after finishing a Whopper at Camp Liberty, just outside Baghdad.

The Army & Air Force Exchange Service operates 23 fast food franchises at 16 U.S. bases in Iraq, with 25 more approved and under construction. They also have Seattle's Best and Green Beans coffee shops.

Terry McCoy, the food program manager for Iraq, opened the first Burger King at Baghdad's airport in May 2003, before the military even set up its first mess hall.

"This generation of soldiers has grown up with name-brand fast food," McCoy said. "It's the taste from home that they're missing. It not only gives them that little moment of comfort, I like to think it ... takes them back home for just the 15 minutes they are enjoying a Whopper."

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