MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

A great read from Peter King who takes a break from football this week to talk about his USO tour in Afghanistan with NFL players Luis Castillo, Tommie Harris and "Who the Hell Are You, 93?"

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38 comments, Last at 12 Mar 2008, 8:21pm

1 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

$30 per meal? That can't be right. I'm guessing they don't eat Filet Mignon every meal. Take away quality and put on transportation costs, and it still wouldn't add up. It's either wrong or filtered into a republican superfund designed to...nevermind.

Good column, though. That type of writing is right in PK's wheelhouse.

3 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

Since there have already been two posts about it in this thread, let me please remind you to watch out for #1. Well, rule #1.

5 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

Only PK would go to Istanbul, with some of the finest coffee in the world, and get a latte at Starbucks (never mind the price): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkish_coffee

Still, a well-written article. He gives a taste of life over there and how much this visit meant to the soldiers without getting caught up in fanatical jingoism.

6 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

Since there have already been two posts about it in this thread, let me please remind you to watch out for #1. Well, rule #1.

OK now I am confused. Are we allowed to talk about Fight Club or not?

7 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

Only FO writers or staff can bring up politics. If we even so much as respond to it, they will remove our posts, and chastise us through email like the heathens we are.

8 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

More realistic quote from Castillo:

"We risk our limbs, except for me who illegally bulked up before the draft so that I could earn more money and reduce my injury risk."

9 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

1 - It depends on how you figure it. If you also add in the salaries of all the food staff, their transport costs, their support staff, etc, plus all the cost of getting it there, it may just be that much.

2 - Yes, it was. Having been in the USN and stationed in such wonderful places as Diego Garcia and Midway, he does an excellent job of conveying just how removed it gets from normal life. And yes, football does become a huge deal when you're that isolated. Because you want something to remind you of home and what's normal and all that.

5 - At least he admits to being a fool for buying it. Thoough he misses your point as to why he was a fool.

10 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

#1 - Just a guess, but (a) I don't imagine that they're getting much savings on quality, and (b) transport costs are probably huge. Assuming they're supplying directly from the US instead of purchasing locally, that necessarily means shipping via air instead of container ship.

#7 - When, exactly, has FO staff brought up politics aside from commenting on the hotness of a particular house member's wife?

11 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

Re 1:
It's called overhead. I work for the government, and an hour of my time costs the taxpayers about 3-4 times what I actually get paid for that hour, because accounted in it is all the costs that tax the dollars that come into my project (e.g. lights, electricity, computer support, facility maintenence, security, and other programs without their own funding that tax all incoming dollars to suppor5t themselves).

15 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

for whatever reason, I couldn't resist; I know it hints in the wrong direction. Not that you need my permission, but feel free to edit or delete the post.

The point was about how it could cost $30 per meal...I know it would be more expensive than the average due to location and various other reasons...

(MJK, I work in pharma operations in the Northeast. Bloated overhead is definitely a way off-topic issue I can spend days on...and nevermind the irony that both of us post here all day)

17 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

$30 a meal -- maybe it's those "instantly hot" meals that are heated chemically. I know we had a spate of those in Florida during the 2004 hurricanes. Quite expensive, and when air-transport is added in, $30 could make sense.

But Turkish coffee is not to be missed. I'm also Turkish, and there's a superstition that you can tell your future by "reading" the grounds left at the bottom. My great-grandma used to do it.

18 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

So the special Forces is made up of FO and their readers?

No, but clearly, elites in every field are very discerning in their tastes.

19 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

There is NO amount of rationalization that would lead me to believe $30 a meal is accurate.

Your average 'plate' at your average restaurant with average business costs approximately $12 INCLUDING ALL overhead (yes, food cost, payroll, building maintenance, utilities, everything).

Since I'm lazy, I'm going to calculate the air freight in a simplistic manner:
You can fit enough food for approximately 300 meals in the space that one airline seat takes up.
Assuming an exorbitant $2100 for a round-trip ticket, that's $7.00 per meal.
Tack on another $1.00 per meal for land transportation costs to the mess hall, and we've got $20/plate.

Somebody's pocketing at LEAST $10 a meal, somewhere. $15 for breakfast.

20 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

17 If I remember right, the heat-up MREs(Meal Ready to Eat) cost between $10-15 a piece (at least that's what the Army charges servicemembers for them, and then reimburses with per diem)

19 & others, transporting goods around Afghanistan & Iraq is quite a bit different than your normal shipping, especially to your out-of-the-way destinations. Local trucks are relied upon and many shipments get lost, hijacked, bombed, etc. These losses average in to the cost.

Additionally, if I'm remembering correctly, most of the KBR contracts are cost-plus, with a fixed profit. That means, we pay them whatever their cost is, plus a %. No incentive to keep the price down. In these instances, results (i.e., troops getting consistently fed) trump efficiency.

Lastly, your calculations don't include the KBR food service employees who prepare and serve the majority of these meals. because of working in a combat zone, their salaries are two to three times what they would be in a normal work environment.

The fact that we can get regular, semi-fresh meals to the troops all over these two nations is impressive--regardless of the cost. I spent a year in a remote Northern Afghanistan outpost, and we had fresh fruit for all but maybe 6 weeks of that time. I'll personally attest to the morale difference that makes...

21 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

19 - Some of that may be true. But it depends on how you do the accounting. All the equipment to prepare that food had to be brought over. It has to be maintained. People have to be trained to do all that. Etc. And $2100 might get you one way to Afghanistan. It's $1000 just to get to India on the cheap. Those flights also have to be round-trip, even if nothing is coming back. We're not leaving the plane and crew there. Finally, I'd be shocked if you could all the food for 300 meals in the space of one seat. If so, I don't wanna eat in your restaurant.

22 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

19 your airline scenario doesn't exactly work either. to get something from the US to a post in Afghanistan requires over half a dozen flights, only the first (across the Atlantic) would possibly be commercial. Once into Krygkystan [forgive my spelling] that cargo will get broken down and flown on a series of smaller planes (piloted by well-compensated combat-zone pilots). There are no simple "round-trip tickets" in war zone logistics, my friend.

23 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

I'm sure the $30 figure is an exaggeration. It's probably half that. But I guess you could make it cost that if you totaled up everything (adding in the planes plus the mechanics plus what you spend to train them, etc) -- there's an incredible amount of support personnel in the military (there's about 180,000 total in the Marines but probably less then 20,000 in direct combat arms).

However, when I was in Iraq and Afghanistan, there was no way they were spending $30 a meal on us! Going 6 months eating crappy MRE's gets to be a drag and the food they cooked for us was definitely on the low quality side too.

24 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

23 Tom, I too was a little surprised by PK's claim that the food was delicious... Expensive, sure, but hi-quality? Eh. Not so much.

25 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

20:

"17 If I remember right, the heat-up MREs(Meal Ready to Eat) cost between $10-15 a piece (at least that’s what the Army charges servicemembers for them, and then reimburses with per diem)"

BS. That might be what the military accounts for them as, but one can easily purchase them for between 2 and 4 dollars on the open market. I would imagine they are even cheaper for the military, as they are presumably buying them in bulk.

It is all just an accounting trick, where the same expenses are accounted for 3, 4, sometimes more times.

26 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

25 BDC, no argument here, just relating what I remembered the charge to be. I can assure you we would have preferred the cash to the meal.

27 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

You can fit enough food for approximately 300 meals in the space that one airline seat takes up.

I think I need to switch to whatever airline you're using.

28 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

My dad was in Iraq 2 years ago (as a diplomat, not a soldier), and he was housed at a military base, and he constantly raved about how good the food was. They fly in fresh vegetables daily. On alternating weeks they had lobster or steak. He put on probably 30 pounds in 10 months he was there.

29 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

He put on probably 30 pounds in 10 months he was there.

I had no idea going to Iraq could be so bad for your health.

31 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

"I still find it hard to believe I just spent a week in the middle of a war zone. They don't sell tickets for the experience of a lifetime, but if you can do it somehow, I'd highly recommend it."

To refrain, if you can somehow swing access to a war zone, don't miss the chance to do so. Wow.

32 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

RE #31 : Awesome catch. I can't believe I actually read that the way he meant it. It's much better your way.

33 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

Did anyone else notice that Peter King's article on Mar. 6th ("Afghanistan is no Joking Matter") was changed substantially in the middle of the day last thursday? In the original version he (re)told a vaguely offensive joke about Muslims and Jews (I say vaguely because it was sort of a lame joke). I was wondering if anyone else saw what saw.

34 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

#33

Yeah I saw the joke, if it was the same one I saw it was a pretty crummy joke about pork or something. I think it was supposed to have been a lame joke Tommie Harris told (I read it as though Harris knew it was in very poor taste, he probably didn't think PK would use it in an article). I would agree that it shouldn't have made the final cut, it was poor taste and not very funny.

35 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

"They don’t sell tickets for the experience of a lifetime, but if you can do it somehow, I’d highly recommend it."

Although PK's heart is in the right place, that statement may have been his personal best for unintentional naivete', which is saying something given his track record. My immediate reaction was: to obtain a ticket for this moving experience, please consult your local recruitment office...

36 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

How much does a toothbrush cost? Because judging by the accompanying picture, King needs one desperately.

37 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

Re #22:
I'm sorry, I forgot to account for the LCD.

It's not an 'airline scenario'. It's a simplified way to estimate the FUEL, LABOR & MAINTENANCE cost of flying a plane to the Middle East.
If commercial airliners can service the area for X dollars per passenger, then so can military planes (replacing the passengers with food).

38 Re: MMQB: A Field Trip Like None Other

#21, #27, etc:
Again, the point isn't to *use* commercial airliners. It's just a dollar cost for reference.

300 meals in the space that an airline seat takes up is rather simple (once you remember that we're NOT USING an airliner, there's no seats!).

I've ran 4 different restaurants with a steakhouse menu (I'm guessing quite comparable to the fare served to the GI's). 300 meals per 2'X3'X6' cube is probably erring on the side of caution. 300 12 oz steaks take up about 1'X1'X3', for instance, leaving a LOT of room for the starch, veggies and garnish.