At this coffee shop, you may have to wait for your caramel latte if the barista steps away temporarily. To fly a medevac mission.
The Dustoff Coffee shop at Camp Taji, Iraq, is operated by five medevac pilots who wanted to brew a cuppa joe for their joes.
The pilots collected an espresso machine, coffee mugs, wall art and an old leather couch, and they set up shop in a space at the 449th Combat Aviation Brigade, which is part of the North Carolina National Guard.
But the main thing was to figure out how you actually make coffee.
The pilots already have a day-and-night job, assigned to the Oregon Army National Guard’s Company G, 1st Battalion, 189th Aviation Regiment.
Oregon, right? It should be a natural. Pacific Northwesterners know their way around a brew. Besides, this is what the Oregon National Guard does, one of the pilots said in an Army release.
“It is a tradition for Oregon [National Guard members] to stand up a coffee shop on every deployment or take over a coffee shop,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ryan Amato.
But no one hands out barista badges to go with your aviation wings. You go from the ground up.
“When we first started out, we definitely made all the wrong drinks to figure out what concoctions and ratios actually worked, because we hadn’t made coffee before,” said Capt. Ashley Morris.
They watched YouTube and used Google to learn their brews, and polled soldiers to find out what they want to drink.
They apparently exceeded some expectations.
“I was actually told by my commander and first sergeant that it was a terrible idea” to open the shop, 1st Lt. Peter Bendorf said in the release. “But I kind of went with it.”
Now the shop serves up a full menu of coffee beverages. The most popular? Lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, mochas and more, the pilots say.
Among the customers dropping in for a steaming cup: the commander and the first sergeant.
Dustoff Coffee is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. local time, unless there’s a mission or a meeting (“because we still run medevac,” Amato said).
Soldiers can settle in with their coffee, a snack and even a donated book.
The shop runs on donations. You don’t have to cough up $4 for coffee here, unless you’re so inspired.
“I was like, well, there are a few things we could pay for around here if we started a coffee shop,” Bendorf said. “It would make all of our lives a little bit easier.”
The shop has taken in enough funds for internet providers for soldiers who can’t afford that in their rooms, Amato said. The pilots also host barbecues to bring the brigade, battalion and coalition troops together, he said.
“Everything given here is given back,” Bendorf said.
Kathleen Curthoys is editor of Army Times. She has been an editor at Military Times for 20 years, covering issues that affect service members. She previously worked as an editor and staff writer at newspapers in Columbus, Georgia; Huntsville, Alabama; Bloomington, Indiana; Monterey, California and in Germany.