By Mr. Robert H Mcelroy (IMCOM)September 4, 2008
USAG HUMPHREYS-About mid-morning August 26 a small group of Soldiers from Alpha Company, 602nd Aviation Support Battalion gathered near Base Operations here to polish two of the skills that sustain the Soldiers of the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade. The Fuel and Water platoon may be small and its work unglamorous but without it the 2nd CAB could not fly, fight or operate. Led by Staff Sgt. Alberto Aguirre, the platoon sergeant, the Soldiers first practiced containing and cleaning up a fuel spill and then set up a Lightweight Water Purification System. Aguirre said that his platoon provides all of the fuel for the brigade's helicopters, vehicles and generators and potable water for its Soldiers. The goals of Tuesday's training were to see how fast his Soldiers could react to and contain a fuel spill and to practice purifying water, he said. Each of the platoon's Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck fuel tankers carries a fuel spill containment kit in case of accidents. Aguirre said that each truck has absorbent materials in case of fuel leaks or spills-absorbent pads, fabric-covered tubular items called socks and "pillows" absorbent pads that resemble filled sandbags. The goal is to contain the spill first, and, if it is 25 gallons or more, the Soldiers call their first-line supervisor and the fire department, Aguirre said. "We take this very seriously; if we dump fuel in the ground we contain it, pick it up, double bag it and don't leave until it's cleaned up," he said. Following the spill containment training the platoon's Water Treatment Section set up their water purification system next to the small pond across from Desiderio Army Airfield Base Operations. The LWPS can be carried in a HMMWV, other tactical trucks, by helicopter sling load or mounted on a large pallet for transport. The system consists of pumps, hoses, a Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit, an ultra filtration module, control panel, three-kilowatt tactical quiet generator, and two 1,000-gallon water storage and distribution tanks, according to Water Purification Section Sergeant, Sgt. Warren Robinson. We can draw water from any source and purify it for drinking, Robinson said. Water Treatment Specialist Sgt. Matthew Frey used a larger but similar water purification system in Samarra, Iraq while deployed with the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Battalion 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. We pumped water out of the Tigris River, six to seven thousand gallons per day, and it was fine, Frey said. Once they arrive at a water source, Soldiers drop a hose into the water and an electric pump draws water into a 1,000 gallon settling tank. When the tank fills to about 750 gallons purification can begin, Frey said. On its way out of the storage tank the water flows through a filter and then into the ultra-filtration system. Composed of three filter cartridges the ultra-filtration system traps particles, bacteria and microorganisms. The filtered water then flows to a filtrate tank where a high-pressure pump forces it through the reverse osmosis membranes, extremely-fine filters which trap any remaining particles. Chlorine is added to complete the disinfection and the purified water goes into a 1,000 gallon storage tank, ready for drinking. So, how does it taste' Platoon sergeant Aguirre found out during a recent training exercise in Kunsan where his Soldiers purified water they drew from a collection ditch. "I tried it later and thought, 'Man, that's some good water,'" Aguirre said. As the training wrapped up and they broke down the system, Water Treatment Specialist Pvt. Corey Sum shared the pride she and her fellow Soldiers feel for what they do. "I like it, we purify water," Sum said. "If you're in the desert or somewhere we can draw water from a pond or anywhere and I can say, 'Hey, I saved your life.'"