James Parham, a 21-year Army veteran who served in Desert Storm, observes labratory training here Friday as a guest of the annual Petroleum and Water Department Reunion. The two-day event also included tours of the newly built barracks areas where today's PWD students reside and the state-of-the-art training facilities that include computer assisted instruction and testing.

FORT LEE, Va. (Sept. 13, 2012) -- About 100 Army veterans participated in the 2012 Liquid Logisticians Reunion here Friday and Saturday.

The Petroleum and Water Department-sponsored event included an assortment of tours, training facility visits and social events with current troops, and it achieved all of the positive goals that reunion planners envisioned.

"This event brings our past into the future," said Conrad Bradley, a PWD training specialist who helped organize the event. While pointing toward a group of older gentlemen standing nearby, he continued, "The participants you see here represent several generations of service ranging from the Korean War era to the early days of Iraqi Freedom. It's an impressive level of experience and historical insights that will be shared with our current Soldiers during the tours and social events we have scheduled for the reunion. It's an opportunity to celebrate our heritage also, and it contributes to that feeling of brother and sisterhood within the liquid logistics community."

A bit of business networking plays into it as well, Bradley also noted. "That gentlemen right over there gave me my first job when I got out of the military," he said. "Again, it's all about building those connections that make the PWD family strong."

Among this year's participants was Floyd Patterson, an 18-year Army veteran who served during the final days of the Korean War and pulled two tours in Vietnam. His ties to Fort Lee include the 25 years he worked here as a civil service maintenance worker and regular participation in the PWD reunions that have occurred every other year since the 1970s.

"I haven't missed a one, but I probably will someday," he said with a sly smile. "No, really, it's good to have something like this where you get to see old friends that you've known for years. And it's a good chance to support our troops. I'll keep coming to these events as long as I'm able to."

Reunion participant Laverne Pulliam is a 26-year veteran who completed his initial entry training as a fuel handler here in 1954. "We didn't have the modern facilities that Fort Lee has today, but I think the students back then turned out OK," said the Colonial Heights resident. "It's all about ingenuity and making it work when it needs to … that's a part of the Army that will never change."

Summing up his first day at the reunion with a single word, "awesome," James Parham said he appreciates any opportunity to visit Fort Lee -- where he was stationed for more than half of his 21-year Army career -- and share his experiences with current troops in training. He and the other veterans had just completed a windshield tour of the installation and a visit to various PWD classrooms. An icebreaker social was scheduled for later that day and the first event on the following morning was a meal at the dining facility with advanced individual training Soldiers.

"It's rewarding to me because I feel like I'm still contributing," said Parham, who parlayed his Army experience into a petroleum engineer position at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida before retiring in 2008. His military career accolades include service in the Gulf War, two distinguished instructor awards while teaching here in the mid-1980s, and selection as the 49th Quartermaster Group first sergeant when the unit was activated at Fort Lee in the early '90s.

"Through all those experiences, I've learned a lot about the advantages of continued training and not being afraid to tackle new challenges no matter how difficult they may seem," said the Rockledge, Fla., resident. "I see an event like this as an opportunity to share that knowledge and hopefully inspire the younger folks who are following in our footsteps."

Page last updated Wed October 10th, 2012 at 12:41