A quick story regarding being unable to eat what you want, when you want.

Years ago, I was a cub reporter working for a small-town newspaper.

Driving home from work one night, I flicked my cigarette butt out the window and it bounced off an unmarked cop car positioned next to me at a red light, prompting the angry officer to pull me over in the nearby Piggly Wiggly grocery store parking lot.

Entry-level reporters don’t make jack. Reporters, at least outside of the major newsrooms, don’t make jack. The officer slapped me with a $500 littering ticket. I then waited another 30 minutes before he approached my Chevy Concorde once more.

“Looks like you’re going to jail,” he told me.

Months earlier, I bounced a $19 check at that same Piggly Wiggly. A $35 county fee associated with this bounced check that I had forgotten to pay resulted in a warrant being issued for my arrest.

The county detention center was overcrowded. After booking, a guard tossed me a flattened peanut butter sandwich. I ate it. The next morning, breakfast was a little bit of meat and a ton of cold collard greens. I love collard greens. This was too much collard greens.

I soon got hired at another job and left the small town Piggly Wiggly life behind.

You’re likely thinking, “What’s the point of this story, Geoff? I’m merely here for the hot ROM meal content.”

The point is, when you depend on someone else to feed you, be it in jail or in ROM, you’re left in a uniquely crappy position. This makes the bad ROM meals below doubly ignominious, and the good ROM meals below doubly wonderful.

With COVID vaccines rolling out to all corners of the joint force, commanders are considering easing associated restrictions. So, who knows how long we’ll be able to gaze upon such sad ROM meals?

But if you’re still ROM’ing and getting fed “woof”-inducing chow, we want to see your pics. Send them along to geoffz@militarytimes.com.

Now, onto your pics!

North Fort Hood Nosh

A pissed off Army captain sent us this pic from when his unit recently had to ROM at the sprawling Texas base.

“This ‘meal’ was served at least once daily while we were in COVID-19 isolation at North Fort Hood,” the captain said. “I sent these pictures directly to the MDOC CDR and CSM. Nothing was done to rectify anything.”

The men and women beneath him didn’t fare much better over the holidays either, the captain said.

“We received a total of 4 breakfasts and dinners for 15 soldiers in our building on Thanksgiving Day,” he added. “When called out for it, they provided us with dry cereal (no milk).

“I’m sure that by now you’ve seen just about everything from Ft. Hood.”

Do better, Ft. Hood — in a zillion ways.

Shiny n’ Brown

A recently retired chief sent us this gem from his springtime ROM last year in beautiful Norfolk, Virginia.

I think that’s a sausage (I pray that’s a sausage). Maybe a stuffed grape leaf that’s been aged to a mahogany hue? The chief would not confirm nor deny whether this meal played a role in a subsequent retirement.

You want six curly fries with that?

Norfolk always goes hard. Next up, from a sailor ROM’ing in Norfolk last May we have the saddest corn dog and laughable amount of curly fries.

“This was lunch for an adult human,” the sailor noted.

At least it’s swirly bread!

A Marine Corps staff sergeant sent us this pic from a two-week ROM at Camp Pendleton prior to a MEU exercise.

“The meals were all terrible, but surprisingly breakfast was always the worst,” the E-6 wrote. “The bread was hard and stale, the minuscule portion of powdered eggs were either sitting in excess water or so dry that they would crumble, and the sausage patty felt like you were eating dog crap.

“Should have just gave us MREs!”

Hide the wiener

Now, we’re aware that a hot dog in chili/soup may be a delicacy to some, but oof. This was sent to us by a service member who had to ROM in Hawaii.

Double cracker action between the saltines were accented by “REAL CHEESE” Ritz Bits, but there is far too little veg and some folks are simply not ready for their hot dog to sit in a cuppa brown like a surfaced submarine.

Dive, dive, dive!

#NotAllROMMeals

We’ve heard from some of you about how your ROM meals weren’t bad at all. Count yourself among the blessed. This first offering out of Guam looks downright delectable.

“Chicken teriyaki, jasmine rice, dumplings, veggies and side salad ... oh yeah, and actual silverware,” a service member wrote. “#Winning.”

Winning indeed. I’m having the kind of day where it’s 10:15 a.m. and I’m ready for lunch. Slide me some of that Guam ROM.

Props are due as well to the Langley Air Force Base’s DFAC, which one reader tells us kept them eating well in quarantine.

“ROM sucks, ROM over the holidays sucked 10x more, but it was clear they put in effort to help it suck at least a little bit less,” an airman wrote.

The viscous sheen on that mac n’ cheese looks high speed, and the candy cane is a nice holiday touch.

Black-eyed peas are an extremely underrated side, too.

Hair of the ROM

OK, back to the sad meals. This dandy was sent to us from “parts unknown,” a term that used to give weight to a pro wrestler’s mysterious origins before it was co-opted by CNN and Anthony Bourdain. Time to take it back!

No meat, just potatoes with pasta. Tsk.

“The hair in the pasta added flavor,” the service member said.

Meat puck

Out at a California Navy base, one sailor was subjected last month to this mystery meat puck.

To be fair, cold Pop Tarts aren’t that bad.

MOAR MEAT!

Protein and fat fill you up and keep you full, but many of your Worst ROM Meals feature tragic portions of meat. These low-protein meals are doubly troubling considering that you are America’s Joint Fighting Force. After all, mankind cannot exist on pearled onion peas and rice alone!

This meal was served to a service member quarantining ahead of Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, or SERE, training last spring.

The meals weren’t the only part that sucked.

“Thirty minutes of time outside,” the service member told us. “No access to the laundry room. I did my laundry in the bathtub with dish soap.”

That’s that. Go buy yourself a burger and wash the filth off.

If you’re still ROM’ing and eating badly, we wanna see those pics! Send them to geoffz@militarytimes.com. If you do, you’ll soon see Volume III of the Military’s Worst ROM Meals.

Observation Post is the Military Times one-stop shop for all things off-duty. Stories may reflect author observations.

Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at geoffz@militarytimes.com.

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