It may be taps for a piece of equipment no right-minded GI would be without -- his mess kit.

The metal mess kits may be replaced by paper plates and plastic utensils in classic colors including dull brown or dull green for camouflage purposes, according to Army spokesmen.

Paper plates already are used in some training and noncombat situations, but not in combat, because a pilot flying overhead can easily spot the discarded white plates.

In August, the Army will test the paper dinnerware while serving 100,000 meals to soldiers on field maneuvers in Hawaii.

Elimination of the traditional chow line and metal mess kit is all part of the effort to give the force structure "more teeth, less tail," said Capt. Tim Mishkofski, a spokesman for the Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va.

He said that the Army's effort to increase response time requires it to reduce its support staff, known as the "tail", including cooks and dishwashers. In addition, "single-use items would be more sanitary" and would require less hot water for dishwashing and less fuel to heat the water, he said.

Suggestions have been coming to various Army offices from across the country.

Joseph S. Carz of Chicago suggested that the Army take a cue from Chicago bet makers of the speak-easy days. "What I remember most is when a police raid took place the bookies would throw the bet papers in a pail of water, where they would dissolve," wrote Carz.

"Granny Turner" of Radford, Va., wrote, "Why don't you do like this grandmother and pass out a small plastic bag like the ones you get in restaurants?" She said each soldier could tear up his own paper plate and carry it in his pack.

A key question, said Mishkofski, will be whether the thin paper plates can "stand up to mashed potatoes and gravy."