By Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret
Multi-National Divison - Center
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq – Every major city in the world has its hotspots. The places people go to set aside work and spend a few good hours with friends.
Military leaders work to ensure the deployed environment isn't void of these comforts. One popular place for relaxing on the majority of military bases in Iraq is the Green Beans Coffeehouse. The drinks are nonalcoholic, but the caffeine is enough to recharge the mood and spirit of service members – just like home.
"I'm a Green Beans freak," said Sgt. Brandon Bresson, of Minneota, Minn., who is typically stationed at the Talil Air Force Base in southern Iraq.
Green Beans is the trademark of coffee for deployed Soldiers, and typically a sign that a military base has been up and running for a good while in Iraq. The most recent Green Beans to open its doors was in Contingency Operating Base Adder late in October.
Walking into Green Beans is like walking into the heartbeat of a deployed installation. There is a pair of Airmen playing chess; a small group of Sailors huddled over their Bibles for a study of scripture; a few Marines joking and laughing; Soldiers conducting a work meeting to break the monotony of the office.
"It's our hangout. It's our spot. We love the atmosphere. Every Friday we come here," said 2nd Lt. Clifton Williams, of Bennettsville, S.C., while celebrating a birthday party at Green Beans with fellow Soldiers from the 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade.
A group of lieutenant colonels meet every Sunday at the location on Camp Victory in what they call the "O-5 over 50" club. Most of them are reservists from different parts of the country and share a table and some caffeine as a way of networking for future military career opportunities.
Each of them has his own favorite drink.
"Iced tea," said Lt. Col. Greg Henning of his drink of choice, holding one up in emphasis. "They ran out of iced tea a couple of months ago, and I thought it was time to go home. I know this is Iraq, this is war, but [if there is] no iced tea, I'm going home," he joked.
Henning is from a town called Northeast, Pa., near Erie. He is a high school teacher in his civilian life but a member of Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq while deployed, helping to professionalize Iraqi security forces.
Henning and a fellow lieutenant colonel both agreed there is a vast difference between life in Iraq and life back home, but having a coffeehouse helps keep their lives grounded.
"[I can] kind of see Iraq as the oasis of peaceful time," Henning said in reflection to the coffee house. "It's a nice place to hang out. The staff, they're good people. They know their customers and work really hard. We tease them we'll have to bring them back home when we leave. They're like a bartender who knows drinks of a customer."
Henning said that in 2004 this coffee house was nothing but a small trailer, much like the new ones opening in bases throughout Iraq. Now, it has grown to a full-size hangout spot with couches, wooden coffee tables and chairs placed all around the central island.
"It's more like [a coffeehouse back] home," said Lt. Col. Tony Heltsley, of Bowling Green, Ky., also a member of the O-5 club. "It gives you a chance to withdraw and act a little bit more normal - decompress a little bit."
Every rank, from private to general officer, comes to drink coffee here, whether to start off the morning strong with an espresso, or head into a night shift with an iced latte. In fact, it's not only U.S. Soldiers who enjoy the drinks in Iraq, but other members of the coalition as well.
Two members of the Australian Air Force sat in the far corner, one holding a vanilla smoothie, the other with a warm latte.
"We were both well aware how you guys deploy in style," said Squadron Leader Scott Geeves. "We consider ourselves very lucky. If we deployed [as an Australian force], we wouldn't have the same comforts."
Geeves and Squadron Leader Jason Collyer both said drinking at Green Beans is like going to any coffee house in Australia.
Of course, Green Beans can't offer everything people might on a typical coffee house menu in the U.S. or even Australia—such as an "espresso con panna" or any of the cold drinks with whipped cream.
But as one Soldier put it, "It's Iraq. I'll take what I can get," said Staff Sgt. Jason Molteni, of San Jose, Calif., member of the 445th Civil Affairs Battalion.
Today, Green Beans serves military personnel in more than 50 locations across Afghanistan, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Qatar, Uzbekistan and Djibouti, Africa. Green Beans' name comes from its commitment to green suiters, but also by its effort to supply and brew organic coffee and teas.
This work, Green suits grow fond of Green Beans, by MSG Michel Sauret, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.