There’s an old Army cadence that goes something like this: “They say that in the Army, the coffee is mighty fine. It looks like muddy water and tastes like turpentine.”

In truth, however, Army coffee was just fine with my taste buds.

I wasn’t a coffee drinker until I joined the Army back in the 1990s. Growing up, I figured coffee was just something old folks drank.

My parents drank it. My grandparents drank it. But my peers, even through high school, never did.

I think that has changed nowadays. When Starbucks and other coffee shops started popping up all over the place about 20 years ago, young people started drinking more coffee.

Now, even some high schools have coffee stands. When I was in high school — a school in West Texas with more than 2,000 students — the only place coffee could be found was the teachers lounge.

Today, I have a Shipley’s Do-nuts and a high school near my house, and whenever I stop at the doughnut place in the morning, I see tons of high school kids loading up on large coffees and doughnut holes.

Anyway, my introduction to the great pleasures of drinking coffee came during many trips to Fort Hood’s training ranges when I was stationed here. When out in the field for two, four or more weeks at a time, coffee becomes a luxury — especially hot coffee.

In the civilian world, we kind of take coffee for granted. I could go to a coffee shop and buy a cup, or brew a pot whenever I’m home.

Not so in certain Army situations.

For soldiers in the field, coffee gets transported in those big, green hot liquid dispensers.

Depending on how far the training area was from garrison or the field kitchen, the coffee would be luke-warm to very warm. It was usually never really hot.

But it was different.

And I began to develop a taste for it as we waited to go fire our tanks at the next range, or on those long nights of guard duty, or as the simple pleasure of having a morning cup of joe.

I used to smoke back in those days, and coffee and cigarettes seemed to go good together, too.

Whenever someone asks if I drink coffee, I usually tell them: “Yep — I been drinking coffee since I was in the Army.”

Some habits developed in the Army never die.

For me, coffee-drinking was one of them.

Thankfully, though, I quit smoking.

Jacob Brooks, a former Army tanker, is the city editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. Contact him at or (254) 501-7468.

Contact Jacob Brooks or (254) 501-7468

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