Soldiers whose stomachs quaver at the thought of another Meal, Ready-To-Eat, (MRE), the main sustenance for U.S. military forces in the field, will soon have delectable brand-name alternatives such as Hungry Jack waffles and Uncle Ben's rice. Occasionally, they will even get a grilled steak at the end of the day once the Army gets its new rations out to the trenches.

Called the Unitized Group Ration (UGR), this new form of chow is made primarily from easily prepared commercial products and comes packaged with enough meals to feed 50 people at a time. The five breakfast and 10 lunch or dinner menus have been field-tested with soldiers at seven major stateside Army bases to rave reviews, according to the Defense Logistics Agency. The Army expects to begin shipping them early next year. Both the Air Force and the Marines are considering using them as well.

The new rations aim to reduce the time, personnel and logistical support required to provide soldiers in the field with a complete hot meal. Tests show that with the UGR, hot food for a brigade can be put together in an hour and a half, compared with the 12 hours previously required for hot rations. That should mean that troopers get prepared meals more often and that MREs will be reserved for truly Spartan conditions.

TRAINING TRIALS: Marine Corps training evokes visions of sweaty days on live-fire obstacle courses. Around the holidays, though, many Marines get visions of another kind when they don special goggles that simulate intoxication during safe-driving courses. The Drivers Improvement Training Course is a requirement throughout the Corps.

Military training becomes family fun when Marine Corps bases host "Jane Wayne Days," a new activity designed to make spouses aware of what their partners do for a living. This includes fighting off an enemy assault in an Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer or landing a big CH-53 helicopter on a carrier deck, also in a simulator. After playing with these electronic games, the spouses get an MRE as a snack.

Out at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, where live-fire facilities are sparse, training can be a splattering experience. Marines get to exercise their warrior spirit at the Kadena Services Paintball Area.

COHEN ON COMMITMENT: Defense Secretary William S. Cohen spoke to a group of government and industrial leaders in London on Nov. 18, emphasizing the Clinton administration's commitment to global engagement despite the Senate's refusal to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Some excerpts:

"To those who would still ask, 'Whither American resolve?' I would answer: A nation content to going 'gently into that good night' would not be engaged in more cooperative military activities--exercises and exchanges--with more countries, in more corners of the world since the collapse of the Berlin Wall 10 years ago, than in all the previous four decades combined.

"A nation determined to retreat into a Fortress America would not be transforming its military into a more agile and flexible force capable of rapidly reaching flashpoints anywhere in the world. A nation bent on stepping into the shadows would not be inaugurating the first sustained increase in defense spending in over a decade, a clear contrast of what is taking place in European countries. . . .

"And so if the question must be asked, 'Will America stay the course?' let there be no doubt of the answer. America will stay the course because that is our history. America will stay the course because that is our destiny. We will stand with you and our friends the world over, even to the end."