Since the 1980s, the Quartermaster Liquid Logistics Exercise (QLLEX) has served as an annual Army multicomponent liquid logistics training exercise to build readiness across the Total Force. Today’s QLLEX is revolutionizing its mission and focusing on preparing units from brigade level and below to support large-scale combat operations (LSCO) in a multidomain environment. QLLEX integrates active duty, National Guard, and Army Reserve units conducting petroleum distribution and water purification operations at the tactical and operational levels. Units are organized under one of the Army Reserve’s three petroleum groups and conduct operations receiving, storing, and issuing petroleum product, operating field services, and producing potable water for participants and customer units. The 135th Quartermaster (QM) Company (Co.) played a significant role in QLLEX 22 as the only active duty, tactical petroleum support organization to participate, with more than 2,540 Soldiers across seven states moving more than 968,000 gallons of fuel in a short nine-day window.
The 135th QM Co. is an essential element within the 87th Division Sustainment Support Battalion (DSSB). The company is designed to provide petroleum support to sustain an LSCO fight. During QLLEX, the 135th QM Co. was responsible for receiving, storing, and distributing more than 80,000 gallons of Jet-5 aviation-grade fuel to Navy and Marine Corps strategic partners at the Naval Air Station’s Defense Fuel Supply Point in Jacksonville, Florida. This accounted for 8.2% of the total fuel distributed during QLLEX. The Soldiers masterfully executed setting up the 120,000-gallon fuel system supply point (FSSP) using the all-terrain berm system. They simultaneously conducted daily quality assurance and quality surveillance checks per American Society for Testing and Materials D1655, Standard Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuels, and MIL-STD-3004-1A, Quality Assurance for Bulk Fuels, Lubricants, and Related Products. Sustaining readiness is a priority and a challenge for petroleum support companies like the 135th QM Co. The unit must maintain garrison support operations to multiple battalion-sized customer units in the field and at the garrison while simultaneously training its Soldiers in a diverse set of skills in multiple operational environments. Building and planning a crawl-walk-run approach to training is crucial to maintaining and building readiness while supporting the unit’s traditional daily customers.
Building readiness does not happen overnight. It requires a methodical approach to establishing systems. Units must balance day-to-day requirements, approach maintenance aggressively, incorporate effective training methods, and share lessons learned to achieve the desired effects. The 135th QM Co. was able to achieve positive training effects by ensuring readiness of their M969 5K tankers, maintaining flexibility in their missioning approach, and coordinating critical elements of information up and down the chain of command. At the company level, effective training while executing the daily mission set is critical to ensuring customer support and mutual training benefits coincide.
Preparation for QLLEX 22
The 135th QM Co.’s success at QLLEX 22 was a great collaboration with the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM). First, the unit identified critical class II, class IX, and major end item shortages starting with fabric collapsible tanks that had reached their shelf life. The unit worked with TACOM and Product Manager Petroleum and Water Systems to turn in old systems and receive new ones. According to the Technical Bulletin for Collapsible Fabric Fuel Tanks, and Fuel Technical Letter 17-04, elastomeric fuel fabric collapsible tanks and berm liners have a shelf life of 12 years from the date of manufacture (DOM) if stored in depot conditions (dry indoor environment) and five years from the DOM if stored in nondepot conditions (outside). Fabric tanks stored in depot conditions can extended their shelf life to 15 years if properly inspected by a trained petroleum and water systems technician or senior petroleum supply specialist. The 135th QM Co. identified fabric collapsible tanks needing to be replaced and submitted extensions for fabric collapsible tanks meeting that requirement. With operational fabric collapsible tanks on hand, the unit focused on maintaining the FSSP’s other elements. FSSPs must be serviced annually to ensure the systems are working properly. This includes pumps, filter separators, and calibration of the flow meters. Once the unit confirmed it had operational systems, the leadership planned its training events.
Training Methods: Crawl-Walk-Run
During the fall of 2021, the company coordinated with the U.S. Army Forces Command Petroleum Training Module (FPTM) team from Fort Pickett, Virginia, for a mobile training team (MTT) to come to Fort Stewart, Georgia, and conduct FSSP training to prepare the unit for its upcoming QLLEX mission. Any unit can request an FPTM MTT to support their training, which truly pays off in support of the crawl phase. The MTT’s training plan allowed Soldiers to focus on mission-relevant tasks and high-value battle drills. Leaders took these battle drills, prepared a plan, and inserted the battle drills into the unit’s home station training to build team readiness. Additionally, the unit integrated training aids and resources in building the crawl phase plan. Resources such as the Petroleum Planning and Operations Smart Book and the FSSP/Assault Hoseline Checklist from the Petroleum and Water Knowledge Center portal of the Combined Arms Support Command’s Petroleum and Water Department website (https://army.deps.mil/army/ cmds/CASCOM_KAPPS/SKN/QMKC/PWD/SitePages/Liquid%20Logistics.aspx) were critical as part of the training. These tools enabled Soldiers to understand specific requirements and step-by-step methods for establishing an FSSP. Soldiers and NCOs conducted skill level 10, 20, 30, and 40 training to enhance their tactical sustainment capabilities according to U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Theater Sustainment Battle Book Student Text. They conducted 100% inventory layouts to ensure the completeness of systems. To understand planning factors and task-to-time ratios, Soldiers and NCOs received precise hands-on training before conducting a complete setup of the 120,000 (120k) gallon FSSP. Following the training with FPTM, the unit participated in multiple iterations of battalion field training exercises (FTXs) to hone their battle drills and special skills on how to set up and operate a 120k FSSP. This was part of the walk phase. The daily mission integrated with field training built the skill sets needed to execute QLLEX. Additionally, the company acquired three 50,000-gallon all-terrain berms to meet environmental safety requirements for an operational 120k FSSP. The all-terrain berm eliminates engineer support requirements while improving flexibility and reducing the time necessary to set up a 120k FSSP by 50%.
During the 87th DSSB April FTX, the 135th QM Co. conducted sustainment warfighting functions to validate its proof of concept by providing support and services at all key levels of liquid logistics sustainment from company to division levels. The run phase of training consisted of setting up the 120k FSSP system and all-terrain berms and identifying essential assets to deploy all system parts. The Soldiers trained on their site, set up battle drills, and continued to improve their planning and execution. The unit utilized internal support from the 87th DSSB Composite Truck Company to eliminate contracted transportation costs while preparing for its training at Camp Blanding, Florida, during QLLEX 22. Through innovation and preparation, the 135th QM Co.’s FSSP site was the first to store, receive, and distribute class III (B) during QLLEX 22 less than 18 hours after notification and movement. The unit’s supply accountability, maintenance plan, MTT employment, training resource usage, and continuous small unit battle drills paid off in a highly skilled and combat-ready team. The crawl-walk-run method of training works if units are dedicated to it.
More than 89% of the Army’s petroleum support capabilities reside in the National Guard and Army Reserve. There are only four active duty petroleum support companies in the Army. The 135th QM Co. was the only active duty, tactical support unit to participate in QLLEX 22 and received, stored, and issued more than 80,000 gallons of product at the Camp Blanding Joint Training Center in Florida. QLLEX 22 enabled the company’s command, staff, and Soldiers to integrate support operations at the tactical and operational levels and synchronize logistical systems across all three components. QLLEX proved it is a primary tool for training petroleum support companies, like the 135th QM Co., to test systems, knowledge, and the proficiency of their Soldiers and leaders. QLLEX helps build readiness for the LSCO future fight. QLLEX challenged the company’s readiness and enabled the leadership to develop a comprehensive training plan using the crawl-walk-run methodology. It allowed team leaders and squads to focus on their battle drills and sharpen their knowledge and skills.
Future LSCO conflict has known challenges and unknown obstacles, but training for QLLEX and building unit readiness ensures great teams like the 135th QM Co. are trained, ready, and up to the challenge.
Maj. Derek J. Castelluccio is currently serving as the support operations officer for the 87th Division Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Division Sustainment Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. Castelluccio holds a master’s degree in logistics management from the Florida Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Syracuse University. He is a graduate of the Command and General Staff Officer College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Omar J. Stoddard currently serves as a 923A Petroleum & Water Systems Technician for the 135th Quartermaster Company, 87th Division Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Division Sustainment Brigade. Stoddard holds a Bachelor of Science in sports management and is a Demonstrated Logistician.
This article was published in the Winter 23 issue of Army Sustainment.
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