Troops at a hospital near the front are cracking open their rations packages to deal with wartime shortages, including a lack of clothing and intravenous fluid.

"One has to be resourceful," said Col. Guenther Pohlmann, a physician at the 13th Evacuation Hospital in Saudi Arabia. "We're in a completely different scenario here."Pohlmann, who normally works at Milwaukee's Columbia Hospital, said the hospital's most critical shortage is the lack of the fluid that is pumped into the veins and is essential for treating people in shock.

The doctor said the military has promised the solution is "in theater," meaning it is somewhere in Saudi Arabia. In the meantime, the doctors plan to take distilled bottled water provided by the Saudis and mix it with antibiotics and packets of table salt that come with military rations.

"That's the closest to sterile that we're going to get here," Pohlmann said. "If they (casualties) get a fever, that's not going to kill them."

Other improvisations are less a matter of life-and-death.

A number of recipes are circulating for ways of reconfiguring the military's pre-packaged meals. Chili is made from a combination of beef slices and Tabasco sauce. Peanut butter fudge is created with two cocoa packets, four coffee creamers, peanut butter and hot water.