FORT STORY, Va. -- The beach may be a nice, relaxing vacation spot for some people. However, it was the ideal location for Army Reserve, National Guard and active duty 92W water purification Soldiers to put their skills to the test during the 2017 Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Rodeo, June 12-16. The 80th Training Command hosted the ROWPU Rodeo, with support from Army Forces Command Logistics and the Army Quartermaster School's Petroleum and Water Department.

Reverse osmosis is a water purification technology that uses a semipermeable membrane to remove ions, molecules and larger particles from any water source to produce potable drinking water in austere environments. The objective of the ROPWU Rodeo was to train and educate water production teams, foster confidence and build esprit de corps. The end result was improved readiness for the individual 92W Soldiers and their units.

This rodeo was an especially great opportunity for ROWPU training because it required competitors to treat and purify salt water. "We don't usually get the chance to extract and purify salt water, so this was a really great exercise for us," said Spc. Donovan Stutts, a 40th CSC team member. "Just in this short amount of time, I learned a lot."

During the five-day event, eight teams, consisting of five Soldiers, sharpened their proficiency in multiple water purification systems. On day one, the competitors had to pass a written exam. Once completed, the next four days consisted of setting up, operating, maintaining, and shutting down a 15K Tactical Weight Purification System and the larger 3K ROWPU. Other systems the teams were tested on included the Forward Area Water Point Supply System and Lightweight Water Purifier. Each day was long and grueling, as the Soldiers persevered through the heat and humidity.

Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Darlington of the 80th Training Command, said he was thrilled to see the competitors in action and interact with them. "I would say that most of these Soldiers, from talking with them, have never worked with salt water before, so this exercise here is essential for them," said Darlington. "They will take this training back to their units and share this knowledge, which translates to improved unit readiness. I encouraged them to ... spread the information about the competition and also share the benefit they're getting as a 92W specialist."

To ensure the water purification specialists were on target, the FORSCOM Logistics Training Cluster provided evaluators to continually assess them as they performed tasks in eight lanes. Each lane was timed. The evaluators scored each team based on their proficiency and if they completed everything within the allotted time.

Sgt. Valerie Wiley, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the 249th CSC team, shared her thoughts on the rodeo. "This was a great training opportunity for our Soldiers," she said. "Our unit is scheduled to deploy soon, so this was very relevant training for all of us. We don't know where we're going yet, and we have to be ready to purify water from any kind of environment."

According to Paul Maples, a FLTC evaluator, Fort Story provided a full spectrum of training on all Army water purification equipment, quality assurance, and storage and distribution equipment. "I enjoy doing this training here because we have everything we need in one localized area," said Maples. "I think this is the most realistic training we can give these Soldiers, especially for when they have to deploy overseas."

Deputy Commanding General Brig. Gen. Fletcher Washington of the 80th Training Command, spoke at the awards ceremony. He said that after observing the competitors, he would gladly deploy with any of them. "Clean water is absolutely essential for our survival," said Washington. "Everyone here has learned the latest tactics, techniques, and procedures, which puts you at a great advantage. From being here and watching you all, I can tell that you are above and beyond other 92Ws who have not gone through this event."

Darlington explained the key to this RODEO's success was the collaborative work, with FORSCOM and the U.S. Army Reserve Command running the event, and the 80th being the executive agent. "With all of us working together, this rodeo improves unit and individual readiness, which positively impacts the entire Army," he said.

The team from the 504th Composite Supply Company, an active duty team from Fort Bliss, Texas, won first place as the "Top Water Dawgs." The 40th Composite Supply Company, an active duty team from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, placed second. Coming in third place was the 961st Quartermaster Company, an Army Reserve team out of McAllen, Texas. The 249th Composite Supply Company, an active duty team from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, won in the Most Motivated category.