We continue to pour in additional supplies every hour in this area. Massive quantities of water, ice and food, 5.6 million MRE's, over 13 million liters of water. We have 2,800 National Guard in New Orleans as we speak today. 1,400 additional National Guard military police trained soldiers will be arriving every day.
Secretary, Homeland Security
Speaking to CNN
My neighbor came over this evening to show me something he had picked up at our local surplus store: an MRE (Meal, Ready-to-Eat). These are food packs used by our armed forces in Iraq. And they are now being distributed to our citizens in New Orleans. He thought it might be an interesting lesson for our young girls. But it was an eye-opening experience for us adults.
We opened the package to see what it contained. We found boxes marked "BARBECUE SAUCE WITH BEEF," "BEEFSTEAK, CHOPPED AND FORMED, GRILLED WITH MUSHROOM GRAVY," "CRACKERS," and "CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE" (plus assorted condiments like sugar, salt, and pepper). Each MRE contains 1200-1300 calories (soldiers need a lot of energy). A special MRE Heater packet was included to warm the food. (Click on image to view/download full size PDF image of instructions: 16 MB)
We looked at the heater instructions to see if we could figure them out. I am mechanically challenged. More specifically, I have problems understanding written directions. A few years ago I had trouble assembling my new lawn mower, only to discover the instructions were actually wrong! I suffer from this problem not so much because my brain is miswired but more because the instructions are often unintelligibly written. Could someone, possibly be in shock, certainly hungry and thirsty, and definitely exhausted, be able to follow these directions?
It starts out with dire warnings on what not to do with the heater. The print is so small I could hardly read it, even with my glasses. Consider that many elderly might have lost their bifocals in the rush to get out of their flooding homes.
More importantly, what they're asking you to do (essentially fill the heater pouch with about an inch of water, which activates the heating element inside) is simply not part of our everyday experience. Soldiers have been schooled on how to use these things. Flood victims under stress have not.
We had to read the directions very closely. And only after about 10 minutes did the three adults agree on how to use it. We also agreed that most, by that time, would have given up, torn open the crackers and cookies and chowed those down, forgetting the more nutritional parts of the meal.
I like collect quirky informational graphics so I had to laugh when I saw the final pictograph. After you begin the meal heating process you should place the package on an incline using a "rock or something." The military sure has a way with words.
I hope Secretary Chertoff will detail some of those thousands of National Guard with extensive MRE heater experience to help explain these directions to the thousands of hungry and exhausted people waiting to eat.