Who Prepares Meals for Soldiers When Deployed: Military Cooks or Self-Sufficiency?

When it comes to feeding soldiers in the field, there’s a lot more to consider than just the logistics of getting food to the front lines. The military has a long history of feeding its troops, from the hardtack and salt pork of the Civil War to the MREs (Meals, Ready-to-Eat) of today. But who actually prepares these meals? Are there military cooks who handle this task, or are soldiers expected to fend for themselves? Let’s delve into this topic and find out.

The Role of Military Cooks

Military cooks, also known as food service specialists, play a crucial role in maintaining the health and morale of the troops. They are responsible for preparing and serving meals in a variety of settings, from military bases to field kitchens. These professionals undergo rigorous training to learn how to prepare large quantities of food quickly and efficiently, often under challenging conditions.

When troops are stationed at a base, meals are typically prepared in a central kitchen and served in a dining facility. These meals are carefully planned to provide the necessary nutrients and calories that soldiers need to stay healthy and perform their duties.

Feeding Soldiers in the Field

When soldiers are deployed in the field, feeding them becomes more challenging. In these situations, military cooks may set up field kitchens to prepare hot meals. These kitchens are mobile and can be set up and broken down quickly, allowing them to move with the troops.

However, it’s not always possible to set up a field kitchen, especially in combat zones. In these cases, soldiers rely on MREs. These are self-contained meals that can be eaten hot or cold and come with everything a soldier needs, including a flameless ration heater to warm the food.

Self-Sufficiency and Survival Training

While military cooks and MREs provide the majority of meals for soldiers, there are times when troops need to be self-sufficient. This is particularly true for special operations forces and those in survival, evasion, resistance, and escape (SERE) training.

In these situations, soldiers are taught how to find and prepare food in the wild. This can include hunting, fishing, and foraging for edible plants. However, this is typically a last resort, used only when other food sources are not available.


In conclusion, the military goes to great lengths to ensure that its soldiers are well-fed, whether they’re on a base, in the field, or in a survival situation. Military cooks play a vital role in this process, but soldiers are also equipped with the skills and resources they need to feed themselves when necessary.