By Sgt. Staff Sgt. Angela McKinzie
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. Public Affairs
CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — Soldiers from the 1st Squadron, 89th Calvary Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI) gathers for the grand opening of “Cuppa Joes” at Camp Striker, Iraq on Dec. 24.
“Cuppa Joes” first started off as an idea, but turned into reality for the Soldiers of 1-89.
“Cuppa Joes” was an idea that was born to me when my husband and I were thinking about what we could have done (for the Soldiers) during his last deployment,”
said Andrea Aitken, the 1-89 senior family readiness advisor, and native of Tulsa, Olka. “The idea was to have a program set in place before the squadron deployed so we could enlist the help of the spouses and family members prior to the Sodliers’ departure.”
Aitken’s idea allowed families to focus on something other than the deployment – a project that would boost the morale of the Soldiers and provide them with a comfort of home in a foreign land.
“One of my friends, Anna, was committed to helping on the homefront,” Aitken said.
Just a couple of months before the squadron deployed a new chaplain joined the team and took the idea of “Cuppa Joes” to Iraq. He immediately began getting supplies such as wood, hammers and nails to make “Cuppa Joes” a reality for the Soldiers. He also recruited 1-89 Soldiers to help build the shop.
“I helped to gather the supplies for the shop, but the Soldiers built it,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Danny Wilson, the 1-89 chaplain and native of St. Joseph, Miss. “But it was the FRG that gave us the idea.”
Although “Cuppa Joes” was intended to be a coffee shop, Command Sgt. Maj. Fred Morris, the 1-89 command sergeant major and native of Port Charlotte, Fla., envisioned something more which led to the addition of a television screen, games and snacks at the shop.
“It started off as a coffee shop,” Morris said as he pointed to the large television screen. “But we added some other things for the Soldiers. We are going to have movie theme nights here.”
Having free food and coffee will give Soldiers who are on missions during dining facility hours a place where they cannot only eat, but relax.
“It is kind of like we have a morale, welfare and recreational center right here,” Morris said.
After “Cuppa Joes” was officially opened, Soldiers poured in to taste the coffee and took time to sit and relax with one another.
“It is nice to have this coffee shop right here … we do not have to walk across the camp to get a cup of coffee,” said Pfc. Jonathan Crump, a personal security detachment gunner with 1-89 and native of Joliet, Ill., as he sipped on a cup of coffee. “It is even nice to know that the Soldiers built this.”
Although the Soldiers actually built the coffee shop, the support from home allowed the Soldiers to enjoy the coffee for free. All of the coffee and condiments were donated by the friends and families of 1-89.
“The certificates of recognition (from the 1-89 command) to those who have donated items help them know they are making a difference,” Aitken said. “Wilson took a simple idea formulated at the dinner table and turned it into something more than we could have hoped for. Perhaps the best gift is that the Soldiers are able to see how many people truly wish to help and support them by more than just words, but actions.”