April 20th, 2010
03:10 PM ET

Care packages more important than fast food

The announcement by Sgt. Maj. Michael T. Hall of the International Security Assistance Force announced that fast-food offerings like Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen and Orange Julius were being shuttered inspired a lively debate about morale and the amenities afforded servicemen and women serving overseas - often in harm's way. Those affected, however, didn't seem very concerned.

"The big things that improve morale in a combat zone are lots of letters and packages from loved ones," Marine Cpl. David Brian Crouch said.

The veterans and active-duty troops all said that access to healthy foods, local cuisine and packages of snacks sent by friends and family trumped military base fast food as morale boosters.

Especially appreciated in these care packages are sweet, sour, salty and spicy condiments, such as Tabasco, sugar packets and seasoned salts for enlivening the military's frequently derided Meals Ready to Eat - individually packaged rations for service members stationed away from meal preparation facilities.

Read more on the troops reaction to the closings

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Filed under: Behind the Scenes • Troops
soundoff (85 Responses)
  1. JJK

    I'm currently at Kandahar, Afghanistan. It's not so bad, I'm happy enough with the food. The curry and the Cambridge DFAC is quite excellent, actually. Although, if I was here for a year I would go crazy, 6 months is like serving a prison sentence. I've only eaten at one restaurant in the middle of the night when I arrived and that was only because the DFAC wasn't open at that hour. We hit up the coffee shops regularly for meetings and motivational energy. None of the restaurants have closed yet, in fact, more are opening. We just got a Lebanese restaurant on the boardwalk...

    Gen. McChrystal has lost some credit with the troops, but that doesn't matter. The fat kids will cry about it and move on. At the end of the day he's a 4-star commander in the most vicious, bloody, frustrating, and crucial war recent history has known. Hats off to him for "cutting the fat" in more ways than one.

    On the other hand, how about re-routing that money into opening more gyms? Hard to be fit to fight when you have to fight for a weight bench...

    April 26, 2010 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  2. EHusafRN

    I am currently on my 5th month of deployment in Afghanistan. We receive a ton of care packages....but most of it we dont use/eat. What we could use here is canned or plastic fruit cups (peaches, pears, mixed fruit), canned veggies, canned tuna, healthy fruit snacks,dried fruit, granola bars, microwavable mac and cheese. We dont need candy or junk and we seem to get a TON of that. We dont have a lot of access to fruits and vegetables.

    April 26, 2010 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
  3. John

    A few subtle red herrings being waved in front of all is the logistics for the material going to the fast food places is taking up space for USPS for care packages and that these ventures are something other than commercial enterprises.

    1) USPS does not handle the re-supply of any fast food joint or for that matter any military DFAC.

    2) DHL handles the mail from Dubai. Any journalist who cares to ask will be told that the plane must wait its turn for landing time on the runway and can sit for days in Dubai while military flights get first preference.

    3) The various shops on the boardwalk are commercial enterprises which have to deal with their own logistics and supply. They truck (like every other contractor) their goods overland (just like all other food supplied to the base) with the UAE, Pakistan or India being the starting point (and sometimes the northern 'Stans).

    4) The shops on the boardwalk must get an ISAF member military nation to sponsor their badges. This is as far a sponsorship goes it is not to be taken as a financial deal (though some bases a percentage is charged through AAFES for the privledge).

    None of the official reasons given make a whole lot of sense given the closing of the tailor shops. It would seem it is ok for the troops to have ill fitting and thus potentially dangerous uniforms as long as the US is not sponsoring fast food?

    Someone with the power to decide the US position made the call on their own from their own personal preference and now the spin has to justify.

    April 26, 2010 at 6:14 am | Report abuse |
  4. Smith in Oregon

    @ 2LT, USA THANK-YOU! The lowest USPS shipping we've paid is 25 dollars on up to around FIFTY dollars for packages which weighed 20lbs or less. I couldn't count the times we've spent 50 dollars for a single mid sized care package to a family member in the Iraqi war zone.Apparently we were getting severely ripped off and the packages were arriving in a very spindled fashion.

    I'll call USPS and get some ripping in! I thought their USPS shipping charges to Iraq was highway robbery, now I know that was precisely what it was!

    April 26, 2010 at 5:19 am | Report abuse |
  5. jean paul

    over 30 years ago, a lot of people were stuck in the jungle eating nothing but rice, fish sauce, and rarely meat (shooting deer, rodents, pets or whatever was easiest to kill). MREs tasted great back then! there was no R&R for a lot of us, now some people think Burger King is a god-given right. let's not get sensational now...

    April 26, 2010 at 2:43 am | Report abuse |
  6. John in Afghanistan

    I'm currently stationed in Afghanistan. I do agree that most of the infantry troops that travel outside the wire are not on a base that would offer fast food services. But I can assure you that when they come through for training or en route to another base, it is a delight to have an old fashioned fast food meal to relax for a minute. The DFACs at my current base are great, the food is fantastic (I'm at a larger base), but sometimes you just need something different. You also have to keep in mind that some of the DFACs service thousands of service members, civilians, and contractors. The line to get in and actually find a seat could be daunting and most DFACs have limited hours for meals which are not always conducive to someone's schedule. Having the fast food is a great morale booster. It gives service members a social place to release some of their stress. If you keep in mind what is happening, the fast food is being shut down, but not the coffee place. Do you think the person responsible has a soft spot for the coffee place as opposed to the others? I definitely think so, you can get coffee at the DFAC. I just think it really sucks for all the service members out here that someone thinks a little peace of mind, a little change, a little freedom to choose a fast food meal every now and then when you want a reminder of home, is too much of a "theme park" or too great of a benefit to give servicemenbers. It's a load of crap. Some General decided that 30 years ago he didn't have it, so service members now shouldn't have it.

    April 25, 2010 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Sylvia

    The fast food issue aside, you can send care packages via http://www.anysoldier.com, which I've been doing for the last few years. The large flat rate box ships at a special military flat rate of $12.50, and you have to fill out a customs form at the post office. The box will be sent to an APO or FPO address, and our tax money will pay for its shipping the rest of the way.

    If you look up the "Forum" section of Anysoldier, you can see dozens of posts by people who are very active in sending care packages, and can give you all sorts of ideas of what to send. I prefer to send games, greeting cards, music, posters, and magazines. I've received a few thank-yous from some of the units, but not all of them. I just assume that they are all received eventually!

    April 25, 2010 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Alpha

    I agree please protect the identity of your service members.

    April 25, 2010 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ashya

    Care packages are great but when we come back from a mission and the only thing open still is Pizza Hutt it is a great treat every once in awhile instead of opening an MRE. Its not about getting better food in the chow hall the FOB's that have things like Burger king have huge chow halls with tons of choices. But its about getting a little taste of home every once in awhile. We only have pizza Hutt and in my 9 months here I have only ate it a few times but its great something to look forward to like a care package. But when we have traveled to some of these bigger fob's such as when I went on R&R the first place I hit was Dairy queen it was like heaven even though back home I can't remember the last time I ate there but it made me feel more like I was back home and that was the best morale booster of all. They keep wondering why the suicide rate goes up every year, in the military and keep sending us to suicide prevention classes but think about it how about doing something about boosting morale and not making life over here hell. I swear every day we have a new stupid rule or are getting in trouble for forgetting to wear our PT belt after dark and making our life hell for getting cought without it im in a war zone should I really be worried about a reflective belt or the mortars falling out of the sky? Give me a break leadership I know in my unit morale is at an absulute low everyone wants out of the Army and they all blame it on our leadership cause instead of fighting for their soilders they are more concerned about what we look like to the SM and Col's. Just give us a little break and let us be on our off time and let us eat what we want.

    April 25, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. The_Mick

    It strikes me funny that the featured example of what our troops eat out in the field among the Muslims in Afghanistan is a pork product. If we needed foreign help in America, how much goodwill would be generated if the members of the foreign army ate Dog or Rat Chow Mein while they mingled among us?

    April 25, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  11. CG

    My son is at Camp Bastion. I thought I would list all the things I have learned that are greatly desired by everyone serving over there. There may be more that I haven't heard about but here is what I know:
    books (mysteries, action, thrillers (vampire stuff), science fiction) great distractions
    magazines: sports, travel, car/truck, motorcycle, game, computer/electronics
    dvd's: while not everyone has a laptop, I understand that the one's who have them try to share. Laptops can play movies and they are one of the best ways to remember being back home
    sports: footballs, frisbees, soccer balls (nothing light weight like beach balls-wind takes them)
    chap stick and sun block (non-shiny and colorless) I've heard Mary Kae chap stick is the best.
    socks-"super wicking" kind (can be white)
    t-shirts (have to be olive drab)
    condiments: hot sauce is my son's favorite but anything to change flavors
    snacks: giant square boxes of Goldfish-extra flavor (last about 1 day)
    baby-wipes: you can find the wipes that don't say "baby" on them.....but these are great to wipe off the day's sand accumulation. Dollar stores have them in pop-top containers.

    I learned about the sports equipment from someone who was in Afghan for 2 years. He said the most popular thing in a box was a football. Every chance they got, everyone off duty would gather outside to throw the football around and for a while they could be home playing down at the neighborhood park. Please don't misunderstand my reference up above to "distraction". What these people do is all too real. Those of us who have never been overseas in the military can't begin to comprehend what they deal with every day. Most of them treasure the times when they can do things that remind them what it feels like to do "normal" things like read a book, throw a ball, play a game, watch a movie. For a little while....which is what eating a pizza or a DQ was all about......

    April 25, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. SGT CJ

    As a veteran of OIF I can attest to the fact that a care package is worth 10 times more to a soldier than a Burger King burger or a piece of pizza from Pizza Hut. Not only do care packages provide soldiers with that "taste of home", but it reminds those soldiers that there are people at home who support them, who are thinking of them and praying for them., It also shows that these people not only express their support in words, but in their actions. They are willing to take time out of their day to gather care package items as well as package and ship them. But what we need to do is make sure that ALL deployed soldiers are receiving care packages from the States. Not everyone has family and friends who are willing or able to send their deployed soldier a care package, and just as receiving a package from home can be a huge morale boost to a soldier, NOT receiving any can be just as damaging to morale. Do whatever you can to help, please! There are many, many organizations out there putting care packages together for soldiers whom they do not even know. If you can assist, please do. As a soldier who has received a number of these care packages myself, I can tell you just how grateful we are for them. Please keep them coming and a big thanks to those of you who have lent so much support – of many different varieties – to servicemen and women and their families.

    April 24, 2010 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mags in WA

    Well Smith in Oregon, sorry that yuo feel that $12.50 for a priority box is too expensive to send your loved ones a gift. I have sent my husband 14 packages since the beginning of this year and I L-O-V-E the USPS for having such a low rate to ship packages to ANY APO/FPO address. While sometimes there is the occasional bump adn bruise to the package, that is usually due to the sender not using adequate packing materials or tape to secure the box. As far as care packages, my husband has seen on a daily basis those troops who don't have the same support from home. Instead of thinking how this is effecting your wallett, think of how your effort into mailing a package effects the morale of your loved one and his/her buddies when they get that package. They don't care if all your homemade cookies have been smashed to crumbs, the crumbs will get eaten just as if it were a whole cookie. And, the fact that you took the time to make it, pack it and ship it means that they are not forgotten. Get over yourself and look at it from a servicemembers point of view.

    April 24, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jewel

    Why would I worry about eating "healthy" when I could get killed at any moment. I say bring on the Dairy Queen. I would rather my last meal be a yummy cheeseburger than a crushed package of Twinkies.

    April 24, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Concerned

    For safety reasons, please don't post a military member's name, rank and location, especially their address on blogs. Not everyone mailing packages has good intent. ...and I'm not being paranoid!

    April 24, 2010 at 5:17 am | Report abuse |
  16. Selena

    My brother returned from Afghanistan in December 2009. He and I wrote almost everyday via email when he was able. I know a lot of service members don't even have access to a PC for weeks at a time, so I know I was lucky to be able to keep in contact with him. He told me about the food at the DFACs. Some FOBs had decent ones, and the other places had horrible ones. One thing that ALWAYS made him feel good were packages and emails from those he cared about. But I believe BOTH care packages and things to remind them of "home" (American food) helped a lot. I remember in one email he described how happy he and some of the guys were when they were at a base that had Pizza Hut pizza. He loved it. Just like one serviceman wrote prior to my comment here, my brother said the very limited food selection got very boring and blah. Is there no way we can keep the care packages coming AND keep little "treats" like Pizza Hut available to our troops? They're serving their country and risking their lives. They deserve all the support we can possibly give. Thank you to all the military personnel for their service!! <3

    April 23, 2010 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
  17. PhoenixKabul

    (Army and Navy Vet) I've been living here at Camp Phoenix,Kabul,Afghanistan for 3 years now.Care packages are great.But not everyone has someone to send them one ok.That's why fast food is a great way to escape ,even for a moment.If your not here or never been in a war zone..You wouldn't understand..Closing all fast food is a step in the wrong direction and they should of atleast keep one fast food chain open.I think logistically this can be done.

    April 23, 2010 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Meghan

    JFK yeah it would be nice if they had "FRESH" food, their food stinks it's dried out stuff that you put water in and at base it's usually not fresh. They're in a warzone so their food sucks

    April 23, 2010 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Lena Martinez

    Please look up your local Blue Star Mother chapter in your state. Blue Star Mothers is a non-profit organization supporting our sons and daughters. Thank you service men and women. May God keep you safe until you return back home. Blue Star Mother in New Mexico

    April 23, 2010 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
  20. 2LT, USA

    To Smith in Oregon (and all),

    The USPS actually offers free care packages to the warfighters in either Afghanistan, Iraq, or around the world. To get the info and supplies you must call the USPS as it is not advertised on their website. I will copy and paste the info below for your use. Hopefully this helps you send your loved ones items they need and doesn't break your budget.

    FREE Military Care Package kit! It takes about 10 days. Get yours!
    Each kit contains:

    * 2 large priority mail flat-rate boxes
    * 2 medium priority mail flat-rate boxes
    * 2 medium shirt box priority mail flat-rate boxes
    * 6 priority mail labels
    * 1 roll priority mail tape (yay!)
    * 6 customs forms and envelopes.

    Request your FREE Military Care package kit by calling 1-800-610-8734. Select your language (1 is English, 2 is Spanish). Select option 1 (it states it is for Express Mail®, Priority Mail or Global Express Guaranteed® products).

    The cost to mail a large flat rate box is $12.50 (up to 70 pounds)!

    Hopefully this helps you send your loved ones items they need and doesn't break your budget.

    April 23, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Don

    I lived in the boonies where the big morale boost for us was "Sandwich Wednesdays" which meant bread and cold cuts were available for lunch. Otherwise MREs or reheated food from very large cans. We would try to let guys go to Baghdad every couple of weeks which was another world to us. After our daily deprivations, the food from any of the large FOB mess halls was an indescribably wonderful treat! Of course we'd get on the internet to email families, maybe get to the phone bank and call home or and pick up something from the PX. It was a touch of home to buy a whopper at Burger King that I appreciated.
    I was extremely resentful that FOBBITs often made it difficult for us to access any of these services during our short trips. Our guys literally risked their lives just to get there only to wait in line for the phone behind rows of 300 pound REMFS calling home every night to complain about the mess hall food they consumed in endless quantities.
    I don't begrudge them the opportunities they have, just don't want to hear complaints about it. And don't want to wait behind them in line, either. Support needs to go to the Warfighter first before all others. If the logistics supports it, keep the restaurants and stuff, just ensure the right customers have priority access.

    April 23, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Catmom5

    I'm a volunteer with Soldiers' Angels and if anyone is interested in supporting the deployed troops go check out http://www.soldiersangels.org. Non-profit started by the most caring, energetic, patriotic person I've ever known!
    If someone is reading this that is deployed and would like to receive letters and packages, please check out the web site too. You can submit yourself to be "adopted"!

    April 23, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Shel

    I sent a care package to my brother through the post office and though I needed some help filling out the form, the post office was patient. The package actually got there (Khandahar) faster than I'd expected and was in good shape. Yesterday I saw that Hickory Farms would send to APO address wiithout charging for shipping, They have special military packages. Currently the selection is limited, but it's an easy option for those who don't want to deal with the post office. I would appreciate some feedback on what the preferred care package contents would be. I send chocolate, coffee singles, Tobasco sauce, a book and few other goodies. Any other suggestions?

    April 23, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  24. MAJ Pain

    I have been deployed three times overseas. I did not eat at the junk food restaurants very often. But after a year eating the same food rotated on the same days every day it gets old. So as a treat I would get a burger or maybe Taco. It’s not a morale thing. It is a dignity thing. I just like being treated like a human being. We are not allowed to drink or have sex. So what’s the big deal...it’s just an American way of life.

    April 23, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Birthday Girl

    The Canadian government handles the delivery of care packages, mail, etc., from the families of the soldiers serving our country. They're sent from family/friends via the military (FOC) to military personnel in stationed in Afghanistan, etc. I've spoken with family members of military personnel, there doesn't seem to be a problem with this method of delivery as packages and mail are delivered regularly. Just a thought... I know the personnel serving our country certainly appreciate the contact with home.

    April 23, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  26. DR

    I see no issue with the closing of fast food chains in "combat zones". First off the people out there on the front dont get that stuff, its the people in the huge bases with the running water, the showers,the Stores, the Chow halls that serve more than one meal aday that doesnt taste horrible, the big gyms. Im sure its nice to get fast food once inawhile but on any fob or cop ive been on ive never been afforded the oppertunity. Moral here is fine without the fast food. Keep the packages coming and everyone will be fine. as a veteran of OIF and OEF i say get rid of it all. Side note if you dont know there are now quite a few military appearence standards comming into effect because of all these people coming back over weight.. i wonder why

    April 23, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  27. ACORN

    McCrystal wants us to live like the troops on the FOB's/COP's. That must be why he has a queen size bed for himself and each of his staff in thier private quarters. He also has his own gym and personnal chef. He and Hall are slowly taking any morale that is left here. The DFAC food is terrible, It is our choice what we want to put in our body.

    April 23, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  28. caring

    I use to send a care package a week to a name I got from anysoldier.com. I was spending about $40 a week on thing for the packages and postage. In 2 years I got ONE letter from a group of females who loved the hair care and person products I had sent. Never anything else. It became discouraging to never hear if the package was even delivered. I also enclosed a self addressed postcard they could have returned. After 2 years of basically no replys I stopped and starting making donations to a local food bank.

    April 23, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  29. USKiwi

    I send care packages through http://www.anysoldier.com and USPS has flat rate boxes which are great. You can also call USPS and get a 'MiliKit' sent to you with flat rate boxes, labels, customs forms and priority shipping tape at no cost. One of the most common requests are tuna packs and protein bars.

    April 23, 2010 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  30. jeff

    i wish the Marines were as spoiled as the rest of the services! We dont have anything on our bases. We get decent meals at chow halls aka your so called DFAC's but its always the same thing every single day. I cant complain though because others have it worse. when i go out to the cops and fobs i take as much dip, smokes, and jerky i can stuff and that puts a smile on the Marines faces. This is the key to their heart. Oh, and toilet paper

    April 23, 2010 at 7:53 am | Report abuse |
  31. Spc. B

    Lots of people are assuming everyone gets care packages. I currently am serving with a troop that does not have a family nor has he recieved a care package. There are plenty of people like that deployed.

    The boardwalk is getting closed because Gen. McCrystal was giving a speech at Bagram and since more people went to the fast food joints then his speech, he gave the order to shut everything down. I know this for a fact.

    Right now I'm currently at KAF waiting to go on leave. However I am attached to an Infantry unit in the Argandhab river valley, which is about a 1.5 hour drive from KAF. I personally do not like care packages, they remind me of all the people I love and miss and make the days drag. I prefer to not think about my loved ones back home as much, THAT is what keeps my mind on the mission. Going to Burger King and eating a whopper doesn't distract more than 5 minutes and maybe 6 hours down the road if it doesn't pass very well.

    Basically this whole story is garbage. They are saving face for McCrystal and his chrones. All of the Infantry guys i'm with who get to goto KAF about once every 4 months to get a shower and more than a 300 calorie meal for hot chow look forward to Burger King, Pizza hut etc. It's complete crap to take that away from those men. Yeah the people stationed at KAF may take it for granted, but its unfair to bar it from the grunt that is out fighting some giving their lives and saying they can't enjoy the food because people didn't show up to a dictator's speech.

    April 23, 2010 at 7:22 am | Report abuse |
    • NavyWife-ArmySister

      Spc. B – if your unit has an Ombudsman, or some type of family services coordinator, perhaps someone could let them know about your fellow troop who doesn't have anyone to send him anything. I served as Ombudsman for my husband's unit during their most recent deployment and I specifically asked the command about people just like this. I wanted everyone to know that someone at home cared about their well-being and their safe return.
      Also, if you don't like receiving the packages, perhaps your family might consider "adopting" this person instead?

      Wishing you a safe return home.

      June 16, 2010 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  32. Been there..done that....

    Any of thsee top dogs ever heard of "Undercover Boss"..it's a great new show that places the Top Guy of the company to work with the underdogs who really do the work.

    McCrystal might want to switchplaces for a while (more than your "moral' trip of 6 hours). See what it's like in this day and age serving in a war zone. Along side some 18 year old who knows he's got a job to do but boy can't wait untilhe can have that DQ blizzard to reward himself once he gets back. Or that 37 yr old E7 who brings his subway back to his tent to have dinner with his wife and kids on a Sunday night via skype as she and the kids sit home and enjoy the same thing.

    I'm prior service, and have done Government contracting in both Iraq and Afghanistan 3 out of thr past 5 years. How dare anyone who hasn't been there ) say take those things away from our troops!!!

    If you haven't walked in their shoes, you don't know what the food is like, how horrible it can be..at times. Not everyday is a bad day, but knowing that there is no variety does get really old. And each base/FOB doesn't always have good old KBR cooking up the meals. Especially in Afghanistan.

    Granted, other veterans from previous wars may say they survived without this luxury, but times have changed. The support for our troops has changed. In the past 3 years, you don't see people just ramdomly sending packeges as much as you used to. And not many can afford to anymore, which is understanable. Maybe that troop is sending his money back home to support his family and that treat on base is his reward.

    McCrystal and all you other Top Dogs taking home big pay checks to your wife and kids with the Ruth Chris and Morton's and Lawry's steakhouse at your beck and call....give these men and women a break. Yes, they did sign up for this service and expect you to treat them with a little respect on what makes them happy at the same time!!!

    April 23, 2010 at 5:28 am | Report abuse |
  33. 1LT

    Steve is absolutely correct. The majority of deployed troopes never get to experience the fast food joints located on the mega Airfields like BAF. At my COP, we barely have showers. I don't want to hear about all the Fobbits down in BAF living it up at the Dairy Queen. It's actually bad for morale.

    April 23, 2010 at 3:39 am | Report abuse |
  34. AC

    Oh...and the whole issue of not being able to ship supplies because of shipping burgers and pizza is hogwash! Those are contracted and not shipped by the military.

    April 23, 2010 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
  35. AC

    While I agree on the value of care packages, I do not see the correlation this has with the issue of closing down the vendors in the Main FOBS and AFs? Whether or not a Soldier receives a care package is generally out of their control. If their friends or family do not send them, they don't receive them. If a soldier has to request things, then in reality, it defeats the purpose. I am currently in Afghanistan and have been to several FOBs. Bottom line, no matter who you are, going somewhere different and being able to have a comodity that resembles home can be a blessing and a small escape from the norm. It does not matter what your MOS is or what service you do, we are all in this together. I have been on both sides of the fence, a "fobbit" and a grunt. In the end, it is all the same. I have seen thhe "Boardwalk" in KAF and I will tell you, once they close BK and other places, NATO and other local vendors will just move in. So eventually, all we are doing is taking money away from the Soldiers and making someone else rich.

    April 23, 2010 at 1:45 am | Report abuse |
  36. ColonelDoc

    Hi folks. I'm an Army physician previously deployed to Iraq and currently with the 82nd Airborne Division in western Afghanistan. I figured I would weigh in on this matter of removing fast food from military bases here. When I first read about the directive, I too took umbrage. However, after giving it some thought, I think it makes sense. These "restaurants" (which are usually just Conex containers painted to look authentic) are only found at the very large bases (e.g. Kandahar Air Field). However, many, perhaps most, Soldiers and Marines are not at these mega-bases, but rather are living under austere conditions at small Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) or Combat Outposts (COPS) scattered around the country. For us, re-supply and mail happens by way of helicopters with limited cargo capacity flying over dangerous terrain. Consequently, necessities such as ammunition are the priority for packing. When space is available for packages from home, grown men end up acting like kids on Christmas Eve, gathering around the lucky recipient. It really would be unfair if limited cargo space was being occupied for sesame seed buns and such destined elsewhere. Thanks for your prayers and support and may God bless us all.

    April 23, 2010 at 1:34 am | Report abuse |
  37. Crystal - Contractor Supporting the Troops!

    I was stationed in Bagram for 3 years and now on my 3rd year here at Camp Phoenix in Kabul. The fast food places come and go. When one shuts down, usually another one opens. Right now, I think a lot of the shutting down has to do with GEN McChrystal. I've read in the stars and stripes that he thinks soldiers and civilians are spending way to much time hanging out in the food court and not enough time focusing on the mission. I have to disagree. But as a contractor, there is nothing I can do about it anyways.
    For Smith whom was talking about the mailing prices, I have an answer. My Mom goes to the post office and stocks up on the "flate rate boxes". They come in 3 or more sizes. Price to mail is $ 9.95, 12.95 and 14.95 (or in that general range). No matter how heavy the box is, you still pay the flate rate. Just check with the PO clerk. This is how my mother sends most of my health and beauty items. You'd pay about that much from Wal-mart, Target or wherever. My favorite online stores are: drugstore.com and netgrocer.com. They ship to APO for a fairly reasonable rate and sometimes free, depending on how much you spend.

    April 23, 2010 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
  38. doc

    seriously reading an article like this is ridiculous. im currently serving in afghanistan and ive been to FOBs that lack many a things such as showers, proper restroom facilities, etc. fast foood is the last thing that anyone should have on their mind in theatre. the enjoyment i get from recieving a care package is much greater than that of eating a cheeseburger. plus, the last time i checked, we are deployed.

    April 22, 2010 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
  39. Beth

    As the mother of four active duty children I can say without a doubt that the best things are the things that remind them of home – remember when stories, pictures, movies, junk food/fast food, toilet paper (most requested item!), someone paying for Skype/internet service so they can see loved ones at home. Oldest son on fifth tour Iraq, oldest daughter on second tour Afghanistan, youngest boy somewhere in theater, youngest daughter on second tour Kuwait. Have sent over a hundred packages – military will provided free packing materials and a "bar code number" to obtain discount shipping. Contact closest military post or google "USPS military packing supplies"

    April 22, 2010 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
  40. Radarrider99

    We send our son his favorite food. Fortunately for us we know how to make his favorites and deliver them in an MRE type package. It is similar to the canned process your grand-parents used, only in vacumn plastic. Our Son and his comrades in arms all enjoy as we send enoungh for his SQUAD. Cannot beat home cooking. PS salty/spicy is best.

    April 22, 2010 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • jayjay

      This is an excellent idea.....can you do this with meats?? Or I am just thinking what ever doesn't need to be refrigerated. When ever I send somethign parishable....like butter, cream cheese, velveeta cheese....etc. I wrap in plastic, aluminum foil, freezer bag, then tape it up completely. My son says he needs 5 different knives and a pair of scissors just to open a package;)

      February 11, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  41. Jonathan

    The only reason I could see them wanting to close down the fast food joints on FOBs and other air bases is due to budgeting because let's face it, the military is always trying to find ways to save money. Hopefully, that money saved can go towards more important things. Doubtful.

    It's nice to have fast food joints on FOBs. Hell our FOB here has em. I don't eat there because I can just get my food at the dfac. But it is nice to have... for those who wish to have a taste of home.

    Now, speaking on my experiences being in Iraq, yes a care package full of food and goodies you can't find over here is the best morale booster. Letters from my girlfriend keep my morale up. As for what kind of things to send them– every soldier/sailor/airman/marine has their own needs. If you know the person well, you shouldn't be asking yourself what to send them. You know better.

    April 22, 2010 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
  42. Fernando Aguilar

    It is very sad when your own country(postal service) charges at I high cost for packages we send to our love ones in war zones where there in not even any fast food restaurants available. The only way we can afforit is because we draw the money from my sons account who is servin now to send what he asks for. My son tells there are many soldiers that are not as fortunate, many do not have anyone who sends them food. GOD bless all Men and Women for serving our counry. They are true heroes. My son is only 19 years old. What were most of us doing at this age

    April 22, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • jayjay

      Go to Adopt a Platoon and sign your son up for "adoption".....great program. Also sign him up on Soldiers Angels...another great program. Again I can't stress enough to use the Post Office military flat rate boxes....The large is 12" x 12" x 5".....unlimited weight for $12.95.

      February 11, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  43. shelleyin montreal

    Do not worry, Canada to the rescue. we will just open up more TIM HORTONS ,their food is better than any of these fast food places anyway.

    April 22, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  44. Karen Very Proud Marine Mom

    My son is in Afghanistan and has been there since the first of the year. I have sent out 21 care packages so far and my family has sent out a few as well. The last time I spoke to my son, around Easter. he had received 16 so far. The cost is only $12.50 per box but I would pay more if I had too. As far as the fast food places are concerned...yes it would be nice if on that rare opportunity my son gets a break he could enjoy some "junk fast food" but if it means that my son would have to wait for needed supplies because burgers or pizza is being shipped, well then I have a problem with that.

    April 22, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  45. david medford

    As an active duty Army Soldier, I know first hand that there are certain times when we need to be reminded for what and for whom we are serving and for whom we live for. These ideals are especially important when we are confronted with life and death situations...those things are the things that make us want to survive and return to those we love. Fast food is not one of those things. That last letter from a loved one or batch of homemade cookies from mom are more help than anyone can ever comprehend! Spend the money spent on fast food chain contracts on cheapening or making free the postage used to send packages to Soldiers...just aq thought!

    April 22, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  46. Rusmice

    Thanks for keeping us safe! They more than deserve to get whatever they want, making them chose between such basic things is straight immoral!

    April 22, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  47. MD

    This is crazy! As a veteran of OIF I have gotten packages from home and enjoyed a meal from a fast food stand on post. What's the problem? Fast food in theatre is a way to remember home....

    April 22, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  48. Mike in KC

    My son in in Afghan and I can certainly attest to the morale lift he and his squad get from packages and letters from home.....no suprise there. He has actually told us the Army mess hall chow isn't that bad and is sometimes pretty good! As to the commentary on sending packages, you can send a lot of stuff and it can weigh up to 20 lbs for $12.50 using USPS Priority Mail boxes. That is a pretty good value as far as I'm concerned considering it's traveling thousands of miles to a war zone and arrives in remote locations by helicopter where my son has been located. The Postal Service employees where I go could not be kinder and more helpful.

    April 22, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • jayjay

      Use the flat rate boxes specifically for APO/FPO....and the weight is unlimited. I know I send packages every week. The flat rate changed from $12.50 to $12.95 at the beginning of 2011 but it is still well worth it. I too have had a clerk or two mention that I should not put my sons name on all sides of the box, but I continue too. They have also said that all the taping is not necessary. But I continue to do so...not one box has been recieved damaged...I have sent 43. I just smile at them when the make those statements and reply "oh, OK". I also number each box then on the few times my son has been able to call he tells me what number he recieved last. He loves getting the care packages. I try to send one meal for the entire 12 guys he is with...spaghetti, taco's (canned beef), pancakes and syrup, cold cereal and Ultra pastuerized white milk and chocolate milk.....winter time only....gosh the items are endless.

      February 11, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  49. Boom...applesauce

    Here's some of what's closing on Kandahar's Boardwalk:

    Pizza Hut
    Burger King
    Oakley Sunglass Outlet
    Alterations Shop
    Sewing/Patch shop

    All these shops have a notice posted outside that they are closed 1 May 2010.

    Here's some of what's not closing:

    Mama Mia Pizza Restaurant
    TGI Fridays Restaurant
    Tim Hortons Donut Shop
    French Patissierie Deli
    Rock's Lebanese Food
    Kebob Shop
    Green Beans (Both shops)
    Dutch Four Seasons Restaurant

    Bottom line; nobodys going to starve, or be limited to chow hall food.

    The biggest loser here is Troopers needing uniforms repaired, because both KAF shops with sewing machines are closing 1 May.

    April 22, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  50. David

    Anything and everything out of the ordinary is a morale booster. Food at the DFAC gets old quick, the ability to get coffee or a snack outside of the repetative chow, is amazing. I was at a FOB for only a month. My short time there, it's the little things that count the most. Limiting options would be taking a step back in my opinion.

    April 22, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  51. Steve

    Elizabeth... I know exactly what you're talking about (I'm assuming your son is deployed in the 1/6 as well, because they deployed in the middle of December). In the very rare event that my brother calls, he has said to me that he will get packages (that I sent in January) in April. But sometimes he'll get a package in the stated "2 weeks" that it's supposed to arrive. The whole postal system is messed up, and I've dealt with people being rude when I try to send boxes as well, so I understand where you're coming from. I am told that I "over-tape" my boxes, and that I might have too much tape on there... but I figure that the box is traveling 8,000 miles and is going through several different stops, so what is wrong with a little extra tape?

    Anyway... hang in there! I have a question... what do you usually send to your son? I, too, send packages every week to my brother. Usually, I send powdered drink mixes, beef jerky, crackers, pretzels, candy, granola bars, fruity snacks, and a bunch of other things like that. Sometimes, I'll send a package of "hygiene" supplies like deodorant and things like that. I just want to know what other people are sending to their loved ones. Thanks.

    April 22, 2010 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  52. Bob

    I have been deployed several times and I can say from experience that sometimes nothing beats a pizza to boost morale. Senior ISAF leadership knows this. I suspect there is some security risk associated with fast food joints because they are mostly worked by TCNs (Third Country Nationals). I also suspect that some are choosing to eat fast food at every meal and therefore getting fat because the local chow hall is often only slightly better than going hungry.

    April 22, 2010 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  53. Bill

    Well I am currently stationed in Camp Victory Iraq. It is not the same as Afghanistan but I have to say that what keeps morale up is an individuals preference. I have not eaten any fast food and care packages don't mean that much to me. But having the chance to Skype and see my wife and kids everyday has been a lifesaver. It costs me $65.00 per month to do it but well worth the costs. I was over at the Embassy some time back (they are allowed to drink) and there was an employee of the State Department yelling at the clerk because they had not had the brand of beer she liked. They get to go home and see their family every three months. Their internet is paid for and they live in what amounts to a nice hotel. The Soldiers leave their families for 6-12 months at a time and get the opportunity to have their rights limited under General Order #1. If they want some fast food, let them have it. The food is actualy pretty good in the dining facilities so I can't complain. Let's just say I will have a hard time pushing for my kids to go in the military. They might as well make more money as a civilian and have more rights. Better standards of living is what the troops need to boost morale.

    April 22, 2010 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  54. Bonita LeMarr

    I have a son in law stationed in Afghanistan, the last conversation had with him was they had not received any mail or care packages from home. Our daughter has sent several and they seem to be held up and not being released – so much for that moral booster!
    Let the mail go through, the military deserves that and so much more!!

    April 22, 2010 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
    • jayjay

      All units have problem getting mail, unfortunately. If they are at a main post, not so much. But those at a FOB or COP it is more difficult to deliver the mail to them. The trucks are in danger of IED's and sniper fire while they are out delivering mail. What they do is wait till they have a complete load full and then head out. Yes it takes longer. At the beginning of my sons deployment it was taking about 6 weeks and through the holdiays same time period, but now it is about 2 weeks. I suppose when things get warmer and the "activity" becomes stronger it will delay the mail again. Don't give up on sending to them...they WILL eventually get it and they will feel like it is Christmas morning.

      February 11, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  55. chris

    Its frigging ignorance that causes actions like these, this general and his people arent in our shoes, despite what they say...they never have been, so how do they think taking things away will help, if you want something that will help, take away the stupid garrison mentallity of larger posts. CSMs and the like have nothing better to do with their time, you say its a war zone, then lets treat it like one, but I know how it works, believe me, it doesnt matter what the ones who do all the work say, the ones who die say, all that matters is what the "important" omes say.

    April 22, 2010 at 4:50 am | Report abuse |
  56. David - WA.

    That's funny. I spent four years in the Navy, and never had any problem with the food.

    April 22, 2010 at 1:51 am | Report abuse |
  57. USAF

    I forgot something. It is also very agrivating when people in the states that have never been here try and comment on fast food places over here. until you have been over here living it day in and day out don't comment on it to much. Leave it to us to tell it how it is. It would be wonderful if they had a shop on the boardwalk here at KAF would be awesome to have baked bread from the people of Afghanistan and possibly get some fresh fruit or veggies. The DFAC can only do so much.

    April 22, 2010 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
  58. USAF

    I agree packages and letters are better than pizza hut and burger king and subway. But being here and eating at the DFAC's 3 times a day gets old after a while and you want something to change it up. Also definately don't get ride of our cold mountain shop. That place is the best morale booster ever. On a hot summers day you can go there and get a nice sundae or a smoothie that taste wonderful. Much better than bottled water 24/7.

    April 22, 2010 at 12:54 am | Report abuse |
  59. Rick McDaniel

    What service people need, is edible food in their mess halls. I doubt it has changed much, since I was in service, in that regard.

    April 21, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  60. Consuelo Hughes

    This article would have been improved if a list of popular items and an address to send them had been included. I personally don't know anyone who is deployed but I would gladly put together a "care package' if I knew what to include and where to send it. That's the least I can do for those who are putting their lives on the line.

    April 21, 2010 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • jayjay

      Search the internet.....Adopt a platoon, care packages to soliers, Soldiers Angels......simply google care packages for soldiers and you will be overwhelmed with information. Good Luck and God Bless you for wanting to help.

      February 11, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  61. SSG W

    Being a service member currently deployed in Iraq, I would say that both statements are correct. Care packages from loved ones do mean a lot to a soldeirs moral. Key note is packages from loved ones. Pizza and burgers cannot compare to a love letter from your wife or just a note of inspiration from friends and families back home. However, every now and then it is good to have something different then DFAC (Dinning Facility) food. Anything and everything you can obtain while deployed is a moral booster, yet it all depends on the soldier. I have seen some soldiers who never get a package from home, yet the frequently get deliveries from Amazon.com, or Bodybuilding.com. Every soldiers need is different. Don't remove the Fast Food chains from theater. Sometime its the greasy gut busting meals you can get from these places that are the closest reminders of home.

    April 21, 2010 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  62. Jb

    I forgot to add Cav units frequently leave the wire as well. And the people that have fought before me in prior wars and at the start of our 2 current ones had it way worse.

    April 21, 2010 at 5:29 am | Report abuse |
    • jayjay

      Who do you think gets the supplies to the FOB or the outposts? No specific MOS is limited to going beyond the wire. You have Female Engagement Teams, Medics, truck drivers, combat engineers, cooks, commo guys.....etc, etc, etc. Read the icasualties web site and see the wide variety of locations and units that are listed for those KIA.

      February 11, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  63. Jb

    Actually most soldiers on a FOB do not go on patrols. The people that leave the wire the most are the infantry, followed by the distro platoons or PRT. Most of the time infantrymen do not live on FOBs, but rather outposts far away from the big FOBs. And these outposts have some of the worst food available. Also, people that live on FOBs are the lucky ones, because a majority of them have access to the nice things such as fast food places and working showers. Personally I hate MRE's and people that live on FOBs do not eat MRE's. They have a choice of what they eat and on the bigger bases like Bagram, they have a huge choice of what to eat. The only thing that kept me happy was accepting that I was not going to leave for a year and the guys in my platoon.

    April 21, 2010 at 5:16 am | Report abuse |
    • FOB Seabee

      i am in a FOB right now, there is no fast food at my FOB its only whatever the DFAC serves. I see my army/marine buddies go outside the line all the time. sure some dont return. but i would rather have a care package that i could share with my friends/coworkers than something fast food like to eat.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
  64. JD

    Kandahar is supposed to be a R&R base. Now it will serve only the crap that is called food in the chow hall. Where did Rest and Relaxation go? McCrystal called the Boardwalk a Carnaval. There are no rides, no Midway. I don't see a Carnaval, just a place to rest and relax. Rest but not relax? What's next? No tents, sleep on the ground? McCrystal get real and make your troops proud to server under you. I think you need to concentrate more on winning this war instead of takeing things away.

    April 20, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • jayjay

      Being able to lay your head down at night knowing your AO is not going to be ambushed with motars and othe live fire...is relaxing......very relaxing. Not having to watch the ANA's that have been assigned to your squad to make sure they do not steal from you, or overdose on their illegal hashish smoking, or from poisening the nights pot of rice cooking with weapon cleaning fluids.......that is relaxing! Being able to call to your loved ones or send emails.....relaxing.....Taking a hot shower once ever 3 months or being able to actually wash your underwear or even buy new.......this is what a soldier or a marine need for R & R.

      February 11, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  65. Chris

    I applaud the CSM's attempt to focus all personnel on the warfight. I don't think that there is any question that the soldiers and marines in theater are there to fight an enemy that demands their utmost attention. The fight must come first. Having said that, for those troops trapped inside installations, with no access to the people of Afghanistan, and no opportunity to break up their routine in any other way should have access to some simple amenities. Most readers don't understand two key points – 1) Most soldiers aren't allowed to move about Afghan communities, or to eat local food or interact with Afghans. and 2) there is a tremendous gap between those soldiers stationed at FOB's, literally living in bunkers, and the personnel stationed at KAF and BAF and in Kabul. I do think it is inappropriate to say that troops need to choose between care packages and these amenities. Our logistics systems can support both. Why would we cut corners supporting all of our troops?

    April 20, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • jayjay

      Those that are "allowed" to move about the land and purchase from the local bazaars are paying about $20.00 usd for 1 yes 1 chicken, and $50.00 usd for a goat. Going to the local bazaar is not a trip to the commissary. They must move in teams....patrol the way. They encounter IED or sniper fire. They are taken advantage of financially. They live in mud huts infested with brown recluse spiders and rats that run across their sleeping units while they are sleeping. They have no place to store the food to keep it fresh or protected from the rats. So moving about the towns and being able to buy your own food is not an advantage as you make it sound. Using the money it would cost to build fast food places would better be utilized buying the necessary itemes for those that are in remote locations to have a functioning kitchen and a way to take a hot shower.

      February 11, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  66. Amy

    What is the harm with letting them have DQ's and Pizza Huts! my son is serving and yes I send him stuff all the time, but why cant he have both? Guess it is asking to much! Geez!

    April 20, 2010 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • jayjay

      It is not about asking too much. But more about $$$$$. The military just as the rest of the US is having HUGE budget cut backs and Morale and Welfare items should be the first to go. Would you rather have your son with the proper equipment to do his job and stay alive, or have the ability to get a hamburger and fries if and when he visits a base that provide these places?

      February 11, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  67. Smith in Oregon

    Sadly, the US Postal Service charges a very large shipping cost for each of the care packages I have sent to family service members in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those same packages seldom arrive in the stated short time of arrival, and often are crushed, spindled or obviously mishandled by the time they are actually delivered.

    I do not understand how hosing down the familys of service members in either warzone by the US Postal Service with extraordinary high shipping costs is helpful to our service members?

    April 20, 2010 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • jayjay

      The USPS provides free "flat rate" boxes of a few different sizes. They will even deliver them directly to your home if you want. Also to mail the largest flat rate box to an FPO or APO is $12.95. There are no weight restrictions. Seal them up really good and they will arrive as you sent it. I have sent 43 boxes to my son and a coupld others since October of 2010. They have all been received and no damages. Yes, there was a delay in delivery during the holidays but right now it is taking about 2 full weeks. My son is a Marine and stationed at a check point that is very remote. Yet he is getting his packages and enjoying them.

      February 11, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  68. JKF

    HEALTHY,FRESH and ABUNDANT food is far better than junk food to keep all functioning at 100% capacity- this will give them a survival edge.

    April 20, 2010 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  69. Steve

    The troops that are in the most danger (and need the biggest morale boost) are the ones on forward operating bases. Those are the ones who have to do the patrols everyday, and sometimes they don't come back from those patrols. Fast food joints on the largest bases aren't going to change the morale of most troops because most troops are nowhere near a large base like Kandahar Airfield base. Getting the care packages that we sound should be the top priority of our military.

    April 20, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  70. Kolawole Ajao

    Marine Cpl. David Brian Crouch is absolutely correct. If I were in the Army and in war front I would appreciate more than anything letters, mementos from my archives sent to me, poems from my collections and any other true morale booster that would keep my spirit as high as heaven.

    April 20, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |