Monday, December 28, 2015

“Lifeblood of the Navy”

Earlier this week, Old NFO had a tale of woe about the trials and tribulations involved in his move from the (ptui!) DC area to some as yet undisclosed location in God’s Country. (Those of you unlucky enough to not live here might refer to it as Texas.)  In that tale of woe, he mentioned that he had somehow misplaced his coffee pot.  

That harmless statement, as it always seems to, set off a flood of commentary.  One commenter went so far as to describe coffee as the “Lifeblood of the Navy”.  Included in the comments were the Top Secret procedures for making that Lifeblood.  (That should be good for an extra hit or two from the NSA.)

While most readers know that “back in the day”, I was in the Air Force as a Fighter Pilot, some may not have read these riveting posts on my first tour as a Joint Staff Officer.

One of the benefits of that job, other than, you know, being based at Camp Smith Hawaii, was spending time aboard the flagships of the USN’s 3rd Fleet and 7th Fleet, USS Coronado and USS Blue Ridge respectively. 
USS Coronado AGF-11 (decommissioned in 2006 and sunk in the Marianas during an exercise in 2012)
Public Domain

USS Blue Ridge LCC-19
Public Domain

 A small result of that time was getting to sample some of that “Lifeblood of the Navy”.

I also got to spend a good bit of time with 3 MEF on Okinawa. (I also spent time with I Corps at Ft Lewis WA, but that’s a different story).  All these deployments involved exercises in which contingency planning was the objective.  Coming up with an operations plan on short notice with a tight deadline necessitated some very long days.  Long days meant Coffee. 

I think I started drinking coffee in pilot training, but I was never more than a cup or two at a time person at that point.  Strapped in to an ejection seat and pulling G’s is not a fun thing with a full bladder, and the restroom facilities are sadly lacking in fighters.  (Never used a piddle pack! Not even on the Trans-Pacific drags.)

So….Where was I?  Oh, yeah.  Coffee and “Lifeblood of the Navy”.

So…There I was*

Camp Smedley Butler, Okinawa Japan.  Deployed to 3 MEF for a Joint Task Force training exercise.  The Joint Staff (in the Pentagon, believe me nothing good comes out of that building) has decided to test USCINCPAC’s ability to stand up a Joint Task Force, develop an Operations Plan and have forces ready to deployon very short notice.  We get the Warning Order and, within 3 hours, my team is airborne on a C-141 bound for Okinawa. That's at least a 10 hour flight (more if it’s winter) and we couldn't afford to waste 10 hours of planning time.  This was back in the early 90s before airborne WiFi was commonplace.  We had a specially modified hatch panel that had a satellite antenna on it and so used that time to begin building the Plan, coordinating both with Camp Smith and Camp Butler.  Very exciting stuff at the time.  (Yeah, I know, it takes very little to get me excited nowadays.)

In any case (which, again, is Texan for “Anyhoo”), we arrive on Okinawa and continue to build the Operations Plan, sending drafts back through Camp Smith to the Pentagon.  We’ve been at it for about 36 hours and it’s me, another Lt Col (USMC) and a USMC Warrant Officer.  

My counterpart Lt Col referred to the Warrant Officer as “Gunner” with a high measure of respect in the tone of his voice.  I elected to follow his lead.  

We’re putting out the latest version of the Plan and it’s oh-dark-thirty.  The Gunner comes in and says he’s going to turn in and asks if we need anything before he does.  I ask him for a cup of coffee figuring he’d tell somebody to make a pot.  He walks off and shortly thereafter brings back a couple of cups. 

He’d made them himself. 

I didn’t sleep for at least 12 more hours. (At which point, the Joint Staff called EndEx as they couldn’t keep up with us.)

Navy Coffee was good, but I thought it was kinda weak thereafter.

We’ve had a Keurig in the house for a while, and my brew of choice was always Jet Fuel  for a couple of reasons, but the primary reason was it is as close to the Gunner’s coffee as packaged coffee could get.  Lately however, even that seemed to be getting weak and disappointing.

On our recent vacation, in the B & B we rented in Sydney, the kitchen came with a DeLonghi Espresso machine.  Now, I like Espresso, but I want my coffee in something other than shot glasses.  This machine had a setting that allowed you to make the Espresso as large as you wanted.  Suffice it to say, I was adequately caffeinated while in Sydney.

Coming back to the real world was tough, and the Keurig didn’t help.  However there was a posting on Instapundit about DeLonghi Machines being offered on Amazon at a special price.

Santa brought me one for Christmas!  Put whole coffee beans and water in the machine, push one button and Espresso comes out.  Life is good!

Hope Everyone had a blessed Christmas and has a Happy New Year!


*SJC



23 comments:

  1. I became addicted to coffee with chicory while building a ship in New Orleans. Luizianne being my favorite variety, though CDM (expensive!) will do in a pinch. Try it!

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    1. Chock full o Nuts made a K cup with chicory. Tried that and thought it interesting. I'll keep an eye out for Luizianne. Thanks.

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  2. Coffee from the mess deck or the Ward room was never as good as the coffee from CIC's [illegal] coffee mess.

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    1. Yes, well there's something about illegal that enhances the flavor.

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    2. Chief's mess was always the best, IMO.

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    3. I should've said 'unautnorized' as in it wasn't in the ship's design.

      I learned to make coffee in the Chief's mess when I was a mess cook.
      That was the only job I ever actually took voluntarily.

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    4. Skip,
      Given the comments below, any coffee procedures you'd like to share?

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  3. Hmm, thought I, who enjoys a morning large (16oz) espresso (served with a federally mandated warning) from the local très chick coffee shoppe. DeLonghi Magnifica, from Amazon. The very thing. EEEEK! Guess I missed the especial price. I'll let Java Blend continue to serve me...

    Re navy coffee. Well, to be specific, Carrier Coffee. Some boats have jape in the potable water, some DFM. To my knowledge it's always one or the other, never a mix. Non-flavored water is not an option. Or at least it wasn't bitd. It took a while, but after about six months on Coral Maru I found I liked DFM flavored coffee better than the more pedestrian JP-5 flavored stuff. And don't forget the salt. Pinch of salt per gallon of flavored water.

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    1. Coral Maru? Had a buddy at Holloman that saw the light and switched his commission to the Air Force. He'd been a Corsair driver on her. Asked him why he'd switched (grass always being greener, I thought carriers were pretty cool), he said 6 months of salt water showers had cooled his ardor for the Navy.
      Yep, 40% off made a big difference in convincing Santa that this was an option.

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  4. As a lowly E-3 (at the 8th Radio Research Field Station, Phu Bai, Vietnam back in 1967) I was on a detail rotation to pull "House Mouse" duties. This entailed clean-up and maintenance of the Analysis Shop, to include keeping the coffee flowing. I had to learn the recipe for the shop coffee . . . water from the hose next to the emergency exit, 1/2LB issue ground coffee, big pinch of salt, crushed egg shell, plug it in, and "viola," an hour later there'd be coffee for all. BUT . . . across the hallway was the Navy Shop, a sort of mini field station, and they had their own coffee maker . . . and it made the BEST coffee. I learned to befriend the squids, and as long as I never disparaged the navy, I could scrounge a cup from them at least once during my swing shift. Good stuff, that coffee. (Never could get their formula from them.)

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    1. I've asked Skip to share. Let's see if he's a buddy!

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  5. When I was stationed in a NATO bunker in Germany we always had coffee - Particularly if you had dais duty - talking with various AA missile batteries at oh-dark-thirty, the coffee was welcomed. I don't remember anything special about it.

    But we all had our own mugs and I remember somebody brought in a bucket filled with water we'd use to rinse out our mugs.


    You'd go to the German coffee houses and I remember being served espresso in these little teeny cups - and the coffee was so strong you thought it'd get up and walk out.

    I have heard that Navy coffee is similar.

    Now, flying across the Pacific with no piddle pack in a fighter - that would qualify as one of the festivus feats of strength. I know I wouldn't make it.

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    1. I did make it to Germany three times in my career, once while I was at CinCPac. I don't remember the coffee as being particularly strong. Of course, the Gunner's coffee may have changed the definition of strong a bit.

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  6. When I was a fairly junior guy (still working aircraft maintenance) I didn't drink coffee. That's a habit I picked up in college (the years between my F-4 days and my later computer guy days). On the flightline I drank Coca Cola (25 cents out of the vending machine, yeah, I know, a long time ago).

    The Germans introduced me to two things, great beer and strong coffee. I could not, I still can't, get enough espresso.

    No piddle pack crossing either of the ponds? Man, I couldn't make it past the initial refuel after launch. My cockpit would, no doubt, have been a smelly one.

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    1. Well, I couldn't make it anymore, that's for sure.

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  7. Our combo grinder/coffee-maker from Cuisinart is on its last legs so this is a good suggestion. However, I've been eying the one that's currently being pitched by Sofia Vergara- that horribly shaped Colombian from Modern Family. I just need to see that commercial a dozen more times before I make up my mind.

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    1. Yes, the research we put into decisions of this magnitude should not be short circuited. Research away my friend!

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  8. "Lifeblood of the Navy" immediately reminds me of attending the teletype maintenance course (Model 28 ASR) at Naval Training Center, San Diego, as a young lance corporal in 1977. The chief that ran the school had all of the students circled up and went down the roster. Seems that some people didn't need orders to attend the school. When the chief got to one of the RM1s from some ship down at 32nd Street, the chief asked him if he brought his "payment" for the course. The RM1 pulled a clear plastic bag of about 10 pounds of coffee out of a gym bag and handed it over.

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    1. Sounds like the Navy got it's money's worth. That was about the time I pulled a similar stunt so the Juvats could have Thanksgiving Dinner

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    2. The standard ( 5#) can of Navy coffee was the universal cumshaw currency any where in the world for my entire career.

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    3. Currency comes in many forms. For instance, a Fighter Pilot seems to be worth one bag of rice.

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  9. Army field coffee. 30 gallon pot of boiling water. Three #10 cans of ground coffee. Reduce to a slow boil. The effete tried to find ways of straining out the grounds but most of use just drank the grounds down. More caffeine that way.

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    1. I always wondered why Army Coffee tasted a little gritty.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)