The Navy will soon be barred from punishing grunts with bread-and-water diet

Illustration for article titled The Navy will soon be barred from punishing grunts with bread-and-water diet
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On January 1, high-ranking Naval commanders will no longer be permitted to use one of the punitive tools previously at their disposal: a bread-and-water-only diet. According to NavyTimes, under rules signed by the Obama administration and amended by the Trump administration that go into effect in the new year, skippers can no longer punish lower-ranking service members with a 3-day confinement and bread-and-water diet.


Per the legislation, called the Military Justice Act of 2016: “Article 15, as amended, would retain the wide range of punishments available to commanders to address misconduct through non-judicial proceedings, while precluding punishment in the form of a diet consisting only of bread and water.”

The NavyTimes reports that yes, this actually happens: “Bread and water had for decades been an arcane disciplinary tool at the disposal of commanding officers at sea.” The article notes this affected service members on the lowest three tiers of the enlisted pay scale.

Food, of course, has long been used as a punitive measure in prisons. Nutraloaf—or merely the threat of being fed Nutraloaf—is used as a deterrent to bad behavior in correctional facilities. The brick officially consists of “shredded cabbage, grated carrots, dry pinto beans, mechanically separated poultry, dairy blend, soy oil, scrambled-egg mix, and 24 slices of bread,” shaped into a loaf and baked for 50-70 minutes.

In addition to banning the bread-and-water diet, the Military Justice Act of 2016 makes changes to how criminal behavior is handled by the armed forces, including protecting whistleblowers, updating the handling of sexual crimes, and clarifying rules about cruelty to animals.

Kate Bernot is a freelance writer and a certified beer judge. She was previously managing editor at The Takeout.



A long time ago, when I was receiving training in the Universal Code of Military Justice, a story was told to us of a Navy Captain who was having a rash of disciplinary problems with young Marines under his command.

It got back to him that some of these Marines were taking it as a sign of their toughness and salty Marine authenticity to be thrown in the brig and fed bread and water or “cake and wine” as it was colloquially called.

He then decided to change the punishment ration to that days meal blended in to a baby food like goop. I think he may have even called it baby food.

The discipline problems stopped.