By Staff Sgt. Opal VaughnSeptember 10, 2016
BREZICE, Slovenia (Sept. 10, 2016) -- While some Soldiers choose to save lives as medics and infantrymen, others save lives one drop of water at a time.
Water treatment specialists from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, are participating in the U.S. Army Europe led exercise Immediate Response 16, and will be tested on their ability to purify and distribute clean water. A vital resource that can be hard to come by during a natural disaster, and even during times of conflict.
Immediate Response 16 is a multinational, brigade-level command post exercise utilizing computer-assisted simulations and field training exercises spanning two countries, Croatia and Slovenia.
"We typically tend to plan as logisticians to provide enough water for [displaced persons]. However, [there are] a lot of unforeseen circumstances," said 1st Lt. Drake Broussard, the Water and Fuel platoon leader assigned to Company A, Brigade Support Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade.
As part of the U.S. Army's Contingency Response Force, the Water and Fuel platoon fully recognizes the importance of this mission and has multiple training opportunities to strengthen and expand their abilities starting with IR16. Throughout the exercise, they will challenge themselves to think critically and creatively to overcome obstacles that arise while delivering humanitarian aid.
"If you flip through the manual of the Light Weight Purification system, you don't really see anything about using a fire hydrant or local garden hose as a water source. We understand that in a lot of disaster crisis's, as well as any sort of humanitarian aid, a fresh or natural water source is not available," said Broussard. "Nevertheless, there are city water sources that may not be completely drinkable but still available to us and can be pulled from as well."
The training and simulations during IR16 are action based scenarios and are designed to enhance regional stability, strengthen allied and partner nation capacity, and improve interoperability among partner nations.
"There's two things that most humanitarian aid workers need to provide to those in need, and that is food and water," said Broussard "Pure water is definitely something that we can provide here.
Based in Vicenza, Italy, the brigade is a prime candidate to assist Slovenia and Croatia, said Broussard. They routinely train alongside their NATO allies and partners and with every rotation there are new challenges to face.
"Typically, the Light Weight Purification system is used for more urban and rural environments," said Broussard. "Today we're practicing using a local fire hydrant. This changes the methods and procedures that you have to use, but that is something that were practicing on [now] so that we'll be ready for the exercise later this week."
This exercise also gives these Sky Soldiers an opportunity to provide a vital resource to other paratroopers in the training exercise, as well as test other critical skillsets.
"We train on different sources to be ready and able no matter the situation," said Pfc. Rai'Quan Dent, a water treatment specialist assigned to the 173rd BSB(A). "If we were to deploy and all the water ran out, they would look to us to have clean water so that they could survive."
Based on previous lessons learned, Broussard agrees with Dent that IR16 is an opportunity to ready paratroopers for possible humanitarian disaster relief situations.
"We're just preparing ourselves and making sure everyone is ready to go. This is one opportunity we saw that we just couldn't miss," said Broussard.
Immediate Response occurs Sept. 9-23, 2016, and will include more than 1,900 Soldiers and security forces from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.