POHANG, South Korea -- Exercise Operation Pacific Reach '17 is a large-scale training exercise that involves multiple units and various branches of the military for both the Republic of Korea and the United States. The focus of the exercise is highlighting the Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore capabilities and the interoperability between forces.
One significant part of the exercise is the Inland Petroleum Distribution System operated by 339th Quartermaster Company, 498th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command and the Amphibious Assault Fuel System owned by the U.S. Marine Corps. This joint operation requires coordination between the U.S. Army, Marines, U.S. Navy and the ROK Marine Corps.
The two systems work hand-in-hand to store and distribute fuel products from the beach to forward operating bases. Once the AAFS is constructed and fully operational, the U.S. Naval Ship Wheeler utilizes the Offshore Petroleum Distribution System to transfer product from a tanker to a depot on the beach.
After the product reaches the high water mark, or depot on the beach, the USMC takes ownership of the product. It is from this point that the USMC operated AAFS truly comes into play.
USMC Chief Warrant Officer 2 Victor Sanchez, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group bulk fuel detachment officer in charge, supported the 3rd Transportation Support Battalion during the exercise with his expertise.
"We have successfully validated interoperability with seven different bulk fuel systems and across four combined joint services," said Sanchez. "In the AAFS, each system component is designed for rapid employment or reconfiguration without the use of special tools."
The AAFS is a fuel system with a max storage capacity of 1.12 billion gallons of product with the throughput capability to distribute 720,000 gallons in a 20-hour workday. Furthermore, the system took less than 24 hours to be fully operational and ready to receive product, according to Sanchez.
"As of 13 April, 422,370 gallons of product were transferred and stored in the theater between the U.S. Marine Corps, the ROK Marine Corps and the U.S. Army over a 6 day period," added Sanchez.
After the product is initially stored at the high water mark, it is then pushed to a 200,000 gallon tactical fuel site on a ROK Marine base 2 miles from the beach where the tank is interfaced with the IPDS to provide product to the U.S. Army as required.
"The IPDS is meant to be connected to the USMC AAFS," said Staff Sgt. James Rose, 339th QMCO pipeline platoon sergeant. "Additionally, it is intended to be a multi-product pipeline, so it can push every type of fuel the military uses."
For the system, 800 gallon per minute pump stations are placed in between tactical petroleum terminals to push products from each terminal forward as they need fuel. TPTs are essentially large tank farms that can store 1.2 million to 3.6 million gallons of product.
"Nine soldiers worked along side of the 22nd Korean Service Corps Company," said 2nd Lt. Juanne Deguzman, 339th QMCO IPDS officer in charge. "The KSC service members go to Ft. Pickett, Virginia to train on the system and construct the system every year so they have a really good handle on the system. They even invented their own tools because they work so much on this system."
Soldiers from the pipeline operations platoon of 339th QMCO and 22nd KSC service members began building the system March 24. The IPDS was fully operational April 6 when the system passed a fill test, which took two days to complete.
"The test is where we run water through the pipelines to check that it works and test the pressure of the pipeline," said Rose. "We close valves on one end and build up the pressure to the maximum allowable operating pressure for the entire pipeline and run water through. Once we do that, we shut it down, close off all the valves and walk the entire line to make sure that there are no leaks."
Generally the pipeline operations platoon is solely responsible for the operation of the IPDS but was assisted by the KSC for this exercise.
"We laid out all the different parts of the IPDS with the KSC servicemen," said Spc. Ariss Markeese Swain, 339th QMCO petroleum supply specialist. "Over 300 pipes were used and the entire system is about 2.3 miles long."
The hands on experience with the equipment allows the soldiers an opportunity to not only familiarize themselves with the equipment, but gain a realistic perspective of the time and effort that goes into ensuring the system is fully operational and maintained.
"This is by far the best opportunity my platoon has had to work both with the KSC and our Marine counterparts," shared Rose. "There is no training event of any sort that could ever prepare [anyone] to actually do this in real life like the Combined Joint Logistics Over the Shore [exercise]. It is probably a once in a lifetime opportunity,"
The AAFS and the IPDS are scheduled to be disassembled the within the coming week as exercise Operation Pacific Reach '17 comes to a close.