Most people think that Navy ships run off of fuel. They would be wrong. They do run off of a dark liquid, but it’s not gas or diesel. It’s coffee. To be fair, however, some of the coffee that we drink could actually make an engine turn.

I was never a huge fan of coffee until my first deployment. I was always more of a Mountain Dew man. If I needed a little caffeine, I’d just grab a Dew and carry on smartly. Then, something changed when I got underway. I no longer needed a little caffeine. I needed a lot of caffeine. When the decision came to spend $10 a day on soda or get coffee for free, the choice was pretty easy.

It took awhile for the taste to grow on me. It was bitter, harsh, and all around kind of gross. It probably doesn’t help that we tend to brew our coffee in a way that would put hair on your chest and then burn it right back off again. It’s fair to say that most sailors like their java pretty strong.

Pretty soon, it started to grow on me. This might be because I really began to like the taste, or it might be because all of my taste buds died off. Either way, it became my drink of choice.

On a ship, coffee is everywhere. You can walk onto the mess decks any time of day and get a cup. Most workcenters have their own pot as well. Nearly everybody has their own cup that means something to them. They may be from a previous command or have pictures of their kids, but there are few things more sacred underway than someone’s coffee cup.

Towards the end of deployment number 3, I was drinking about 7 or 8 cups a day, so I forced myself to cut back before my heart decided to explode. It was tough, but after a couple weeks of intense detoxing, I was back down to a couple cups. It probably didn’t help that my wife slipped a pound of two of grounds into every package that she sent. It probably isn’t a huge surprise that the Navy doesn’t exactly buy Kona coffee in bulk. Opening a box to find a bag of brand name coffee was a huge boost to morale. Since I normally shared it with the rest of my division, I tended to be a fairly popular guy. People would actually ask when my next package was set to arrive.

Now, I’m down to about a cup per day. I don’t really drink it to stay awake anymore. I actually like the taste. It’s bitter, harsh, and all around kind of awesome. I’m sure my intake will increase once I get back on a ship, but my heart has been rested.

As a word of advice, if you do happen to send out care packages to sailors, it might not be a bad idea to include a bag of quality coffee. It is, after all, what makes the Navy go.

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