By Sgt. Robert Yde, 2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public AffairsOctober 24, 2007
FORWARD OPERATING BASE PROSPERITY, Iraq - "Anybody can take grounds and put them in a coffee pot and make a pot of coffee," explained Chief Warrant Officer Tilden Morgan, as he prepares a shot of espresso at his office at FOB Prosperity, "but anybody who knows anything about the taste of coffee knows that espresso has a distinct flavor."
For the past year, Morgan, an electronic missile system technician with the 15th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, has been keeping his office mates fueled with daily cups of cappuccinos, mochas and every other type of gourmet coffee imaginable.
"He's basically kept us afloat and alive and kept our hearts beating," joked Chief Warrant Officer Mark Rademacher. "If it wasn't for him and his little concoctions over there, we'd probably be floundering or yawning or just passed out on a desk."
Morgan, who is originally from Seaside, Calif., is not just a coffee connoisseur who enjoys sharing his passion, he and his wife, Keela, have owned Java Jolt, a drive-thru coffee shop near Fort Hood, Texas, for the last 14 months.
He said they bought the store in anticipation of his upcoming retirement, and they already have big plans for its future.
"As soon as I get back, I start my retirement, and we've decided to expand the business after I retire," he said. "I've recently acquired a mobile espresso unit. It's a completely enclosed coffee shop on wheels; so I'll be hitting all the local weekend events.
"Right now, we're also in contract discussions with AAFES because I'll be the first individual in the area to have such a service, and they want me to take out a contract exclusively to provide a mobile service on post."
Morgan said that even though his current deployment has kept him, "out of the game," for the past year, having an espresso machine in his office lets him continue to experiment with new flavors and add to his menu.
"You've got hundreds of different coffee syrups available, and it's just basically trial and error," he said. "I sometimes think of a candy bar that I like, and you mix a little bit of almond with a little bit of coconut and you've got an Almond Joy. You mix a little bit of caramel syrup with hazelnut syrup and chocolate syrup and you come up with a Snickers bar. It's just limitless the different flavors that you can come up with. As far as that's concerned, whatever you can imagine, you can come up with."
This artistic side of coffee brewing is one of his favorite parts of the business, and according to Rademacher, Morgan seems to have a knack for it.
"The coffee is always outstanding," he said. "The flavors he combines - he's always coming up with some new ideas - a new taste or something. He's really done some great things with that stuff."
Morgan's latest concoction, while still in the works, already has a name: The Black Jack.
"I haven't decided what the main flavors are going to be yet, but it's going to be something that the 2nd BCT Soldiers can come to the shop and ask for by name," he said.
While his fellow coworkers often serve as a testing group for his newest flavors, they are not the only Soldiers on the FOB benefiting from Morgan's association with the coffee industry.
Morgan has partnered with his distributor, Amy Watson of Texas Coffee Traders, to offer free samples of coffee, which are made available to any Soldier inside the dining facility.
"I came up with the idea a few months ago to offer a sampling of the different regional coffees that are available, and I had gotten with my coffee distributor back in Texas, which is Texas Coffee Traders, and asked them if they would match us one for one with a different flavored coffee every month, and they agreed to it," Morgan explained.
Since he started offering the samples about five months ago, Morgan said that more than 150 pounds of coffee has been donated, and said that he has received a lot of great feedback from the Soldiers who tried the various samples.
"We try to mix up the different regions of coffee we offer," he said. "For the Soldiers keeping track, they can actually differentiate between the taste of a Columbian bean and an Ethiopian bean."
Morgan said that while it has been great being able to share his love of coffee with his fellow Soldiers while in Iraq, he is looking forward to returning to Fort Hood and focusing on expanding his business.
Not only is Morgan going to offer a mobile coffee service and catering services, but within five years he also plans to open a roaster in the Killeen area, as well as start offering repair services for coffee equipment to other vendors in the area.
Ultimately, Morgan said that he hopes to leave a successful business that his 17-year-old daughter, Tiara, can one day take over.
"Hopefully, one day she is inspired to take it over," he said. "I want to leave her a conglomeration with a couple trucks, a warehouse to roast coffee and technicians to service the coffee machines in and around the Bell County area."
He said that none of the things he has accomplished would be possible without his experiences in the Army.
"The Army has been good to me for 20 years," Morgan said. "It's because of the Army that I've acquired the skills necessary in order to do what I'm doing now, and that's manage, which has led into the entrepreneurial aspects.'
'The military can be a good stepping stone. There are skills that you probably don't even realize you're acquiring just from the mere fact that you're, one, in the military, and, two, you're in a battle zone. Whatever those skills are, there something that if you use them to your advantage, they can benefit you sometime down the road. So just take every opportunity that being in the military has to offer and eventually it's going to pay off for you because it has paid off for me and my family and it's been a blessing."
Morgan said that once he retires, he hopes that through his business he can give something back to the military.
"I'm still going to be here to support the troops 100 percent with whatever I can," he said. "A lot of local businesses say they support Soldiers, but very few of them can also say that they've served with Soldiers - I know what it is to be here."