By Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public AffairsMarch 23, 2018
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (March 23, 2018) --When your job entails providing fresh, clean water in a training environment or on deployment, those Soldiers call themselves "Water Dogs."
And when a unit is in need of hot showers after a long day in the field, or to quench their thirst, the "Water Dog" can be a Soldier's best friend.
That essential support was provided by the Soldiers of the 543rd Composite Supply Company, 548th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 10th Mountain Division (LI) Sustainment Brigade, during the Mountain Peak training exercise at Fort Drum for 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI).
Spc. Amer Hjazeen said that they used the Tactical Water Purification System (TWPS) to clean the water pumped out of the Black River, a fresh water source. They purified about 31,000 gallons, more than enough to supply every Soldier in the field, to include the water platoon, with 10 gallons of water.
He said that the purification system that they use to clean the water has a two-step process of microfiltration and reverse osmosis.
"We can put water from any river, stream, ocean or any water source through the system," Hjazeen said. "Actually, the product water that we make is better than any bottled water you could buy at the store."
Chlorine is added to the water to kill any germs or bacteria in the water.
"That's when the water turns from non-potable to potable," Hjazeen said. "It's a critical stage of the process. For storage and distribution, the water has to be two parts per million chlorine, and any higher, you will taste a little bit of the chlorine. The chlorine will dissolve with time, so at consumption it has to be one part per million chlorine."
Hjazeen said that if a Soldier ever tastes chlorine in their water, then the time between processing and storage was shortened. It's not going to make anyone sick, Hjazeen said, but it won't have the best taste.
"For example, we are supposed to produce 15,000 gallons today to send to 2BCT tomorrow, but then we get a radio message that they need it tonight," he said. "Then, the chlorine that we already put in the system still needs more time to get to the level we need it to be to remove the chlorine taste. It's an issue of time."
Once purified, the water is stored, distributed and used for drinking, personal hygiene and cooking.
Spc. Viridiana Silva said that the water is tested every hour during the purification process.
"That's to make sure that we're not going over the chlorine limit that is supposed to be in the water," she said. "We are constantly testing the water to make sure it is consumable. When we first arrive to the site, we also test the water source, which is a different kind of testing. We will never distribute water that isn't good to go."
Silva said that, according to the field manual, it takes two hours for three Soldiers to set up the system.
"But since our whole platoon was there, it only took us about 30 minutes," she said.
Given the lingering winter weather at Fort Drum, this was not without challenges.
"We were having a hard time with the cold weather, making sure that the pipes and pump were not frozen," Hjazeen said. "Every day, we would heat them up and make sure they were good to go."
"Our water system can run by itself, but it still needs to be maintained 24/7, so we have people in the field making sure it remains running and performing maintenance when needed," he added. "We're on top of it."
The water platoon of roughly 25 Soldiers also had other missions to accomplish during the training exercise. The job of assembling field shower systems is normally handled by Soldiers with the 92S military occupational specialty -- the shower/laundry and clothing repair specialists. Silva said that her platoon is cross-trained to handle this other quartermaster function. During the exercise, Silva said that some of them set up a 12-head walk-through shower system to accommodate roughly 600 Soldiers in the field. A 2,000-gallon water tank was connected to a heater to supply hot water to the shower system.
Hjazeen and Silva said that the water platoon is proud to support 2BCT Soldiers throughout Mountain Peak.
"It has been a great experience to be able to distribute the water that we produced," Silva said. "Before, we would do this in training, just run water through the system and back into the river. Now, this time we were able to do the entire process and it was fun."
"I believe that water purification is an essential MOS," Hjazeen said. "The NCOs who taught me were in Haiti and other places where crises happened, and they provided clean water to the public. When it comes to the U.S. Army, it's not just helping ourselves and our Soldiers, but it is about helping everybody else and helping communities in need."