QLLEX Delivers Challenges and Opportunity
June 26, 2013
Recently over 3,000 service members, predominately U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers, at four military instillations from Virginia to California moved more than 2.6 million gallons of fuel over 169,000 miles and produced 320,000 gallons of drinking water as part of the U.S. Army's Quartermaster Liquid Logistics Exercise from June 1 to 14. While this may have been an exercise, the battle rhythm, communication and missions for Marine Corps Reserve, U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard members of providing fuel, water, laundry, showers and hot meals were designed to replicate in conditions similar to those on a battlefield and demonstrate military self-sufficiency.
Originally conceived as a petroleum exercise over 30 years ago, QLLEX has become much more over the years. Currently involving personnel, military intelligence, computer and network support, supply and support operations sections, testing a broad range of Soldiers and military occupational specialties, no other CONUS-based exercise provides such a broad suite of real-world multi-echelon and joint sustainment operations training opportunities for the private through senior officer level. Based out of Fort A.P. Hill, Va., the 475th Quartermaster Group was the lead command for QLLEX with support from subordinate units at Fort Pickett, Va., Fort Bragg, N.C., and Fort Pendleton, Calf.
QLLEX highlights how Soldiers are capable of sustainment of decisive action by demonstrating how sustainment operations support the Army's core competencies of combined arms, maneuver and wide area security. Sustainment operations provide the Army with operational reach, freedom of action, and endurance. The ability to demonstrate this is necessary in order to give commanders confidence to take the initiative and conduct decisive action and QLLEX gives sustainment commands the means to demonstrate this. "It's fuel that drives all the equipment and it's water that drives the Soldiers," said U.S. Army Reserve Col. Mark A. Anspach, Commander of the 475th Quartermaster Group, based in Farrell, Pa.
Exercises like QLLEX test and demonstrate expeditionary sustainment ability at many levels. QLLEX tests senior leaders military planning and decision making process. "QLLEX is a complex exercise designed to challenge and develop battalion and group's staff military decision making skills. The battalions have to plan their annual training with units from outside their regular peacetime chain of command, and be able to execute their mission while being assigned to a location that can be hundreds or in some cases thousands of miles from the group headquarters," said Lt. Col. Richard Sayre, 475th Executive Officer.
The core focus of the exercise planning and execution involves petroleum and transportation missions. These missions include transporting fuel from Fort Lee, Va., to the 100,000 gallon fuel farm at Fort A.P. Hill and transporting water to the base camps and other areas for Soldiers use with laundry, showers and food preparation.
The fuel farm is where fuel is temporarily stored and tested for contaminants and water content by Soldiers from the 633rd Quartermaster Team using their mobile testing labs. Any time fuel changes hands from where it's being stored there is a risk of contamination, so before the fuel to be distributed and used, it must be pure and consistent within specifications. "In the lab we run a variety of tests, some that will determine the number of contaminants in it. This testing ensures a safe fuel is used," said Pvt. Glen Hefner, Petroleum Laboratory technician, with the 633rd. Once the fuel passes its tests it gets shipped for use by the transportation Soldiers.
In addition to fuel, water treatment is the other key component to QLLEX and with the military's budget under increasing constraint; self-sufficiency and cost efficiency are an ever increasing priority and the Army Reserve is constantly looking for ways to achieve that. Using the same equipment being used today in Afghanistan, QLLEX water purification units, using Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit's (ROWPU), can pull raw water directly from organic sources then Soldiers treat the water to eliminate waterborne diseases. Opportunities like QLLEX provide realistic training for U.S. Army Reserve support Soldiers because they mirror similar conditions and scenarios they will face when deployed.
QLLEX is more than just an exercise for fuel and water technicians. Feeding and supporting this many Soldiers takes planning and coordination as well and QLLEX gives Soldiers the hands-on experience that they may not get to do during a battle assembly weekend along with stresses the reliance on military self-sufficiency. For food service Soldiers, this means the chance to train on their field food preparation capabilities using their mobile kitchen trailers.
"With over 3,000 soldiers participating in this year's exercise, it will test the capacity of all the cooks," said Staff Sgt. Michael Harbison from the 298th Transportation Company, based in Franklin, Pa., adding, "Cooking in this environment is a fun challenge, we are working at the full capacity of our MKT's".
Pvt. 1st Class Kennice Parker, from the 611th Quartermaster Company, Baltimore, Md., said, "QLLEX has allowed me to prepare some of my first meals in a field environment," adding, "This is my first time cooking since AIT."
Along with providing food service, the Soldiers provided over 11,000 showers and completed over 5,000 bundles of laundry for the participating service members.
QLLEX is an opportunity for all Army Reserve Soldiers in these units to stay ready and trained. Behind the scenes at the headquarters, Soldiers and senior leaders track the movement of convoys using the Battle Command Support and Sustainment System or BCS3. This system provides logistics information critical to operations by fusing sustainment information from numerous sources into a computer based map system providing real-time visibility of shipments to their destination. Along with the convoys there are Soldiers constantly moving in and out of the area that need to be tracked and accounted for as well.
Staff Sgt. Amanda Morrow is the platoon sergeant for 475th, is tested on her ability to perform personnel functions. "I am responsible for ensuring that the Soldiers in the personnel section accurately collect and roll up each day's [personnel status reports], red cross messages, and sick call visits," said Morrow. Adding, "We need to know where personnel are at all times."
Testing military self-sufficiency and command and control for 3,000 Soldiers at multiple locations, over a 14 day period may seem like enough of an undertaking, but many involved with the exercise would like to see it expand and involve even more Soldiers. "QLLEX continues to demonstrate our ability to keep critical expeditionary skill, fuel and water, tested and fresh. In the coming years we would like to include Air Force participation as well as fuel and water teams from our active duty Army units. And next year we are looking at adding different fuel delivery challenges to QLLEX; such as over the shore fuel delivery operations using Army watercraft. To accomplish that the QLLEX exercise will undoubtedly need to grow at least in terms of complexity if not size," said Anspach.