Water production in the Army is a key capability required to support large-scale combat operations (LSCO). In March 2022, Alpha Company, 87th Division Sustainment Support Battalion (DSSB), partnered with 92W Water Treatment Specialists from across the 3rd Infantry Division and the U.S. Army Reserve to execute a culminating water purification training exercise to build and sustain readiness in support of defense chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) response force (DCRF) and other prepare-to-deploy order requirements. During the exercise, Soldiers purified more than 20,000 gallons of water utilizing the tactical water purification system (TWPS) and the lightweight water purification system (LWPS). The train-up and preparation for this culminating training event (CTE) were significant.
As a composite supply company (CSC) assigned to multiple operational mission sets and garrison requirements, sustaining readiness is both a priority and a challenge. Building readiness does not happen overnight and requires establishing systems for readiness. Units must balance day-to-day requirements, approach maintenance aggressively, incorporate effective training methods, and share lessons learned. The below recommendations take sustaining readiness beyond conceptualization and into implementation.
CSCs play a vital and significant role in LSCO and multidomain operations. CSCs are very diverse and complex organizations. The CSC is an essential unit in the DSSB, providing multiclass supplies to Soldiers on and off the battlefield. CSCs provide Class III bulk and packaged products (petroleum, oils, and lubricants), Class IV (construction and barrier materials), Class VII (major end items), Class IX (repair parts), and Class I (perishable and semi-perishable) shower, laundry, and bulk water to supported units.
Specifically, within the DCRF mission sets, defense support of civil authorities (DSCA) is one of the most demanding missions. These missions require rapid deployment to support local, state, tribal, and federal agents in large-scale natural disasters and/or CBRN events. Units must be ready to deploy and employ water treatment systems at a moment’s notice. At the division level, CSCs have most of the water production and distribution assets capable of purifying up to 130,000 gallons per day from fresh water, salt water, and CBRN contaminated sources. Active duty units must continuously maintain a high level of readiness and be prepared to support contingency operations, scheduled deployments, training rotations, and unscheduled DSCA mission sets.
The Army has transitioned its focus from counterinsurgency (COIN) operations to LSCO to meet the threats posed by peer-to-peer and near-peer competitors. Commanders at all levels require water purification and distribution assets on the battlefield to support the sustainment line of effort. The size, scope, speed, and quantities of sustainment support required to conduct LSCO operations vastly outstrips what was required to support COIN operations. Unlike the last 20 years of COIN, LSCO operations have limitations on the employment of operational contract support, host nation support availability, international acquisition cross service agreement (ACSA), and logistics civil augmentation program (LOGCAP). Instead of a battlefield based on population-centric counterinsurgency, LSCO centers on divisions and corps fighting in a more linear concept. In LSCO, hybrid threats intermixed with deep strike kinetic fires and cyber warfare place the entire theater and even the United States under threat. The very nature of LSCO and its scope impede the availability of supplies and services from ACSA, LOGCAP, host nation support, and operational contract support to the battlefield. External support will be limited to augment the mission, so equipment must be ready, and Soldiers must be trained.
Understanding water production equipment’s maintenance and supply status was a key element to prepare for the CTE. Preparation was started by conducting thorough technical inspections of the equipment. Operating procedures were conducted per the technical manual, and non-chlorinated water was pushed through the system to validate functionality. Non-chlorinated water must be used to prevent costly damage to elements within the system. Good sources of non-chlorinated water include ponds, lakes, and rivers. It is also possible to use a potable water point; however, the chlorine must be neutralized with a sodium bisulfite chemical before being pushed through the system. Additionally, thorough inventories were conducted to validate shortages and serviceability of components while shortages were ordered. This phase should take 3-5 days to complete for each system. Providing a detailed maintenance plan to one’s chain of command for visibility and support before execution is recommended.
With the technical inspections complete, the team focused efforts on tracking and installing parts. Time management and good tracking tools are a must during this phase. The team developed maintenance tracking tools and had open lines of communication with the mechanics resulting in expedient parts installation. Once parts were received and installed, the team quickly tested the functionality of the systems again and conducted further troubleshooting procedures. Depending on the initial status of the equipment, troubleshooting procedures require two or more system diagnoses to capture deficiencies accurately. Commanders should allocate sufficient time in training schedules to enable units to accomplish maintenance missions. Within a six-month period, all water treatment systems became fully mission capable. This required four Soldiers to be readily available every day to assist mechanics with part installations and movement of equipment. Consistency and leader engagement were key factors in driving the operational maintenance plans providing Soldiers the ability to train with the equipment.
Training Methods: Crawl-Walk-Run
92Ws are responsible for supervising, operating, and maintaining water purification equipment and ensuring the proper storage and distribution of clean water. Other critical tasks 92Ws perform are routine water quality tests, inspections, and accountability at water sites. They must comprehend how to maintain appropriate chlorine levels and parts per million and how to identify other conditions or hazards to health and the environment.
How do units ensure their 92Ws are properly trained and proficient? Enhance their military occupational specialty (MOS) specific skillset through training prioritization, virtual simulation, hands-on training, leader engagement, and knowing operational plans regarding specific roles and responsibilities in a garrison and theater of operation. As stated in FM 7-0, Training, incorporating the crawl-walk-run methodology for training promotes optimal performance through progressive sequence training that builds on each other before moving on to more complex tasks.
An effective tool to utilize during the crawl phase is virtual simulation training available online. These tools enhance the familiarization of water production systems. As petroleum systems technicians, specialized in water and fuel equipment and training, Soldiers are highly encouraged to train on virtual simulation courses located on the quartermaster website at www.quartermaster.army.mil under the Petroleum and Water Department tab. This training style enables Soldiers to assemble, disassemble, and operate MOS-specific equipment in a virtual environment while providing interactive multimedia instruction. A good training practice is to reserve a computer lab at a local education center for 1-2 weeks to give the Soldiers multiple sets and repetitions to build muscle memory and overall familiarization.
Next is the walk phase, which includes systematic, hands-on training. During this phase, water treatment systems are employed at a raw water source like a pond, river, or lake. Leaders conduct training on water site reconnaissance, water testing, chemical injection, operating equipment, maintenance, and accountability procedures. The end state is to train Soldiers on both the TWPS and LWPS simultaneously to fully understand the capabilities and challenges of both systems.
The run phase comprises all the procedures in the walk phase, but Soldiers are now being evaluated based on the training and evaluation outlines per the unit’s mission-essential task list. The evaluation outline determines if the Soldiers are untrained, need practice, or trained. This is the Army’s way of objectively evaluating and determining the effectiveness of Soldier training.
A commonly used phrase in the Army is, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Water production capabilities and training on these systems were not top priorities during COIN operations. However, this capability is critical to support LSCO. Despite day-to-day mission complexities, Alpha Company, 87th DSSB, used the approach previously mentioned to build and sustain water production readiness. The unit has proven this method of sustaining water treatment systems to be effective in preparation for garrison and contingency operations. The unit’s approach to readiness included balancing day-to-day requirements, attacking maintenance aggressively, and incorporating effective training methods. Conducting a water purification field training exercise with 92Ws from multiple components enabled the 92Ws to enhance their MOS proficiency while supporting total Army integration. Quarterly unit training on water purification is highly encouraged to maximize training opportunities for 92Ws while exercising the equipment. To support the nation’s future wars, water production readiness must be built and sustained.
Lt. Col. Jonathan A. Daniels currently serves as the commander of the 87th Division Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Division Sustainment Brigade. Daniels holds a master’s degree in transportation and logistics management from American Military University and a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Virginia.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rickey D. Ivey currently serves as a 923A Petroleum Systems Technician for Alpha Co, 87th Division Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Division Sustainment Brigade. Ivey holds a bachelor’s degree in Transportation and Logistics Management.
This article was published in the Fall 22 issue of Army Sustainment.