Chow hall cutbacks in Afghanistan spark anger for some Marines


The chow hall at Combat Outpost Taghaz, photographed in Helmand province, Afghanistan, last October. (Photo by Dan Lamothe)

Check out this photograph above. It shows the modest chow hall at Combat Outpost Taghaz, a small combat outpost in Afghanistan where I lived with Marines for about a week last fall while gathering information for a couple of stories. The adviser team shared the base with a platoon from 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, which provided overwatch security in the region.

I bring this up after reading today that some service members at Camp Leatherneck, the Marine Corps’ largest base in Afghanistan, are angry that commanders have apparently decided to dump the midnight ration service and 24-hour sandwich bar in its chow halls. It plans to replace them with prepackaged Meals, Ready to Eat, Lt. Col. Cliff Gilmore, a Marine spokesman, told NBC News.

The decision won’t be popular at Leatherneck with everyone. NBC News quotes an email one Marine wrote his wife as an example.

“This boils my skin,” the email said. “One of my entire shifts will go 6.5 hours without a meal. If we need to cut back on money I could come with 100 other places. “Instead, we will target the biggest contributor to morale. I must be losing my mind. What is our senior leadership thinking? I just got back from flying my ass off and in a few days, I will not have a meal to replenish me after being away for over 9 hours.”

That’s one side of the debate. The other side will come from Marines living on small bases with chow halls like the one pictured above. In many of those locations, Marines have never had three hot meals per day. In some, they’ve had just one. There also is no ice cream, salad bar, refrigerated soda and other creature comforts on a lot of those smaller bases. Instead, there’s usually one dutiful lance corporal or corporal, doing the best he can to put together a decent meal each night for his fellow Marines on base.

As someone who has bounced around all over Helmand province in the last few years, I can understand some disappointment with meal services being cut back at Leatherneck. In particular, for those working overnight, having a sandwich readily available was certainly a sweet deal.

The outrage expressed in some corners here seems a bit over the top, though. Seriously, “I will not have a meal to replenish me”? Infantrymen all over Afghanistan have been hanging in there just fine with MREs in off hours for years. For the time being, there’s also the massive PX store on Leatherneck, which is stocked with snacks of all kind and probably can offer some relief.

No one is going to starve anytime soon.


About Author

I'm a senior writer with Marine Corps Times, covering ground warfare, manpower, weapons acquisition and other beats. I embedded in Afghanistan in spring 2010, and plan to return at least once in 2011.


  1. I just love reading about how hard POGs have it, especially while deployed. Eat foil-packed tuna (that you paid for) and fruit two meals a day, and one ‘hot’ meal out of the back of a truck that left the FOB 10 hours prior, then come to me with your 6.5 hours! “My cammies don’t match,” “I’m only being fed three times a day,” “my FOB had a rocket pass overhead, where’s my CAR and NAM?!” P1$$ off!

  2. LCpl Malone on

    @Cpl Null

    For real. It’s like, I’m sorry guys, I forgot we were in the MILITARY, let alone the Marine Corps. Suck it up and carry on is all I have to say.

  3. how about we cut the meals down for those that made this stupid decision. all troops should get 3 squares a day. the troops run on FOOD, so if we dont feed them they dont work……….

  4. BTW, I am a POG and agree with the comments in the article. I am a fatass with no intellect, so I make fun of other people.

  5. Pingback: Hanger! Chow hall cutbacks in the sandbox provoke unrest — Off Duty Plus

  6. Cpl Null and LCpl Malone.. It is good to see that we have such senior Marines telling everyone else to ‘suck it up’. Good ole Marine Corps way. Even though things ‘could’ be better for a few guys, you two voice that since u have it so bad .. Everyone else should. When is the last time either of you two POG’s went three months on nothing but MRE’s that were rationed to only two per person the first month? Instead of asking why a meal has been cut… You just hop on the good ole Marine Corps logic of ‘suck it up’. You two… I assure you… Have NO idea of what it really feels like to ‘suck it up’. You two will make fine SgtMaj’s some day since you already don’t give a shit and are already slobbing that knob raw.

  7. Jim:

    I was on the first sangin deployment with 3/5… you bet that we resented the hell out of POGs and their whining. we ate MREs and ONLY MREs for the first 4 months. I can whole heartedly say that I have sucked it up, and that I was ok with it because that’s why I joined. Marines exist to fight and possibly die. anything above that is a bonus. if we at least do not suck it up, no one will. gripes like this are why the Marine Corps is losing its edge.

  8. Cpl Null you seem like you have it pretty rough.

    Go through an entire deployment on MREs except when you stop at a FOB that has hot chow every few weeks.

    Wish all my deployments were as easy as yours!


  9. This is not a question of survival of the Corpsman. This is a matter of small respect for the men fighting our war. I am very disappointed with this admintrations lack of respect.

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