Energy drinks popular among Soldiers

By Story by Pfc. Jennifer Kennemer, 16th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentSeptember 26, 2009

1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Staff Sgt. Kevin Harrell, 441st Ordnance Battalion (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), sips an energy drink during a break from Operation Unified Endeavor at the Grafenwoehr Training Area Sept. 25. (Photo by Pfc. Jennifer Kennemer, 16th Mobile Public Affa... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Close to 1,000 energy drinks are sold weekly at the Grafenwoehr Training Area Shoppette, here an aluminum recycling bin is filled with empty energy drink cans. (Photo by Pfc. Jennifer Kennemer, 16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Note: Providin... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany--- It's official, energy drinks are everywhere. In recent years, an explosion in popularity has seen the market increase in the number of brands, flavors, and types of drinks available. The trend has found a home within the military, where Soldiers are reaching for an easy way to stay awake during long shifts.

Currently, Soldiers of the Special Troops Battalion, 1st Armored Division and support units from around the Army are taking part in Operation Unified Endeavor, a mission readiness exercise being held at the Grafenwoehr Training Area in southeast Germany. The exercise will prepare the 1st AD for an upcoming deployment to Iraq and will feature 24-hour operations.

Effects of the long hours are evident at the GTA Shoppette; the store's manager said energy drinks are one of the most popular items at the store.

"We sell close to 1,000 energy drinks in a week," said Manwela Grant, an Army Air Force Exchange Service employee for six years.

The attraction for most energy drinkers is the energy "rush" or "high" felt after consuming the beverage.

"Energy drinks are generally artificial stimulates and for the short term will improve awareness," said Sgt. Maj. Clark Charpentier, 1st Armored Division surgical section sergeant major. "However, over time, the body does start to compensate for the artificial stimulant and increased doses of that stimulant will be required to maintain that same level."

Charpentier is the Operation Unified Endeavor senior medical noncommissioned officer and is responsible for providing force health requirements and recommendations in relation to the operation's troops.

"Soldiers are using [energy drinks] as a quick fix, but with the number of deployments and the high operational tempo, we need to make sure we are prepped and ready for the long battle and not just dealing with the here and now," Charpentier said.

The best alternatives for dealing with stress levels while keeping a high level of performance are a balance meal plan, physical fitness, and good sleep discipline, he said.

Staff Sgt. Eric Thomas, 441st Ordnance Battalion (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), said he began drinking energy drinks during a previous deployment to Iraq. The drinks, he said, helped him stay awake during night convoy operations.

"I have cut back to drinking two a day, in the past, I used to drink a half dozen in a single day," said Thomas.

He cited concerns about health implications and the high cost of energy drinks as reasons for his decision to make the decrease. The average cost for an energy drink ranges from two to three dollars.

Charpentier said that energy drinks, like coffee, are not detrimental if consumed in moderation.

"The primary concern is for first-line leaders, first-line supervisors and battle buddies to monitor who they work with and be able to identify when a Soldier's performance is degrading and if they are using an artificial stimulant as a coping mechanism," said Charpentier.

Editor's Note: Providing this information does not constitute the Army's endorsement of any product.