JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In today's environment, there is no guarantee that organic lines of supply will remain intact in a combat or humanitarian disaster situation -- as illustrated by the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, when the Army and other military branches worked together to support civilian agencies that needed assistance dealing with relief operations.
That's why the 61st Quartermaster Battalion, part of the 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, traveled from Fort Hood, Texas to participate in this year's Quartermaster Liquid Logistics Exercise at Fort Stewart, Georgia and other locations for the majority of July.
The QLLEX is a multi-component, joint exercise involving elements from the Army Reserves, Defense Logistics Agency and the United States Navy to transport petroleum from a supply hub to the end user -- in this case, Navy Aviation.
"The main focus of the QLLEX is to move fuel from point to the other," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Norris Sherfield. "The days we have mission we will move fuel and convoy from Fort Stewart to Jacksonville and move fuel from North Jacksonville to South Jacksonville to the naval air station. The Navy is our customer for this exercise."
The 61st helped deliver more than a half million gallons of fuel from the Defense Fuel Support Point, located on the north side of Jacksonville, across town to Naval Air Station Jacksonville, where it was downloaded and stored by the Naval Supply Systems Command.
"The 418th Transportation Company in conjunction with our reserve component transportation companies supported NAS JAX fuel requirements by delivering from the DFSP to the naval air station every day," said Capt. Katherine Schnepper, commander of the 418th Transportation Company. "In the first three days of operations we provided a quarter million gallons of fuel, over the course of the operation we will provide over 600,000 gallons of fuel."
The Soldiers were able to train and execute their fundamental mission of delivering bulk fuel on a much greater scale than they normally would at home station supporting III Corps requirements at Fort Hood.
"There are a lot of difference between this mission and our typical military to military mission at home station," Schnepper said. "This does require us to learn some lessons about different types of fuel and how to prepare our equipment for that, plus how to use systems that typically accommodate civilian trucks."
The QLLEX ultimately enhances readiness for the battalion, one of the only petroleum battalions in the active Army, allowing it to test and verify their ability to conduct a variety of missions that are associated with its core competencies.
"It's great training, our Soldiers have the opportunity to interact with DLA and NAVSUP as well as the Quartermaster Detachment, here at Fort Stewart," said Lt. Col. Alphonso Simmons, commander of the 61st Quartermaster Battalion. "This is the first time we have experience the Quartermaster Detachment as a liaison."
As operational deployments dwindle, exercises like QLLEX are instrumental in providing Soldiers with the hands on experience they need to be ready for large scale conflict, as the Army's priorities shift away from terrorism as the primary concern for U.S. national security.
"The Soldiers get to exercise their equipment and it also gives them the experience traveling up and down the highways," Sherfield said. "That experience builds their confidence in case we have to go to another environment or another country to conduct the same mission."
This is the second year of participation for the 61st Quartermaster Battalion, with the potential for future participation in years to come.