Revolutionizing the Quartermaster Liquid Logistics Exercise

By CourtesyMay 22, 2024

Mission of the 953rd Theater Petroleum Center

The 953rd Theater Petroleum Center serves as the senior petroleum advisor to the geographic and functional combatant commands and provides strategic operational planning support to Theater Armies, Army Service Components, Corps and/or Theater Sustainment Commands. The 953rd TPC conducts liaison support to U.S. Transportation Command, Defense Logistics Agency Energy, the Army Petroleum Center, the Joint Petroleum Office, SAPO, and other partners, as needed. The organization provides bulk potable water planning support to the TA, ASCC and TSC as required.


Bulk petroleum remains the most challenging commodity on the modern battlefield and imposes the most demanding distribution and storage requirements and serves as the lifeblood of all other systems in the joint force, making it a primary focus for enemy forces and highest priority in terms of disrupting logistics. The efficient distribution and storage of all other commodities depend on it. The delivery of bulk petroleum is exceptionally challenging and requires uniquely designed equipment, favorable terrain, specialized containment, training, and testing. Current Army equipment prioritizes mass storage efficiency, making it hard to disperse fuel into smaller, more survivable pockets. Furthermore, it comprises not one single fuel but several, each requiring individual planning and advanced management months ahead of use.

Approximately 85% of the Army’s bulk petroleum units reside in the U.S. Army Reserve. To prepare for this vital mission, the U.S. Army Reserve Command leads an annual exercise dedicated to improving the tactical readiness of liquid logistics formations. The Quartermaster Liquid Logistics Exercise, also known as QLLEX, is the only exercise in the Army dedicated to training bulk petroleum and water units for their wartime missions in support of large-scaled operations.


The QLLEX was originally called the Petroleum, Oils, and Lubricants Exercise when it began back in the 1980s. POLEX focused on building tactical level readiness and served bulk petroleum forces well preparing for operations in previous wars to include executing convoy operations and large fuel hub storage in locations like Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the threat from peer and near-peer state level adversaries grow in the Pacific and Europe theaters, planners in the TPC focused on challenges that effect future bulk petroleum storage and distribution missions. In the thirty-year span from the 1990s to 2020s, bulk petroleum units benefitted from the ability to consolidate operations on large, protected forward operating bases. Logisticians referred to these locations as “iron mountains” where massive quantities of fuel, in some cases equaling 30 days of supply or more, could be forward positioned in “bag farms” and connected with redundant multi-modal and multi-nodal networks. During this time, consumption rates were predictable, reliable and uncontested. Routes were serviced by Army personnel and contracted line haul tankers, protected by U.S air superiority in theaters where the enemy had no means to disrupt strategic level petroleum operations. In Iraq, line haul and pipeline distribution extended over flat desert terrain, resupplying a land-dominate force with no requirement to push fuel over the shore to remote locations.

As the joint force shifted focus from combating terrorism, to LSCO, TPC planners also shifted their focus to understanding the complexities of providing bulk petroleum in theaters that do not benefit from the conditions experienced in the “last war.” Early fighting in Ukraine demonstrated that state level adversaries will target strategic petroleum storage and distribution assets. LSCO will likely see challenges to naval and air superiority that will place bulk petroleum networks at risk. Distributed combat formations will stress logistician’s ability to connect units to steady fuel sources and further increase the need for improved long range fuel planning, calling for a greater accuracy on logistics common operating pictures, an increased reliance on joint force, allies and partners, and commercial integration. It will also increase the need to improve survivability and deception, and distribution modal options to supply petroleum over-the-shore.

Over the last few years, USARC developed a new formation that will convert its Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricants Groups into Theater Petroleum and Water Groups. TPWGs are expected to grow in size and responsibility compared to POL GRPs, adding planning capability to its mission aligned to a supported Combatant Command . Additionally, they are multi-compo and will have detachments directly supporting forward fuel postures and relationships. With conversion on track to occur in the 2025-26 timeframe, TPWG training demands grow from tactical readiness achieved in prior QLLEX scenarios to operational readiness focused on theater specific training objectives intended to shorten the time needed to deploy and integrate with a supported CCMD.


In anticipation of the fielding of the theater petroleum and water groups and with analysis of estimated future bulk petroleum requirements, the 953rd TPC developed the “Revolutionizing the QLLEX” concept. The TPC collaborated with planners in USARC, Europe Command and INDO-Pacific Command ASCCs, Headquarters, Department of the Army G4, Forces Command, Army Futures Command, Sustainment Capabilities Development, and Integration Directorate, the Institute for Defense Analyses, and others to share and understand the training needed to prepare tactical level formations as well as operational readiness focused bulk petroleum headquarters for their expected wartime mission in a joint concept for contested logistics environment. This collaboration led to the development of a way forward, with 10 recommended actions and a supporting plan of action and milestones, shared with QLLEX planners and stakeholders.

Two events, one QLLEX

Over the last two years, USARC has invested heavily in QLLEX evolutions while maintaining the core tactical level training that is vital to individual and collective task readiness. In QLLEX 22 and 23, command and staff benefitted from INDOPACOM and EUCOM informed training objectives built into a multi-day simulation exercise designed to challenge and improve the operational readiness of the POL GRPs and future TPWG headquarters. Since the tactical requirements have not ceased, company level and below training continued with focus on line haul and storage skills needed to maintain tactical readiness standards.

The two-event model supports both goals. In the coming years, we anticipate more tasks will be added to company level training, to include rail tank cars and Joint Petroleum Over the Shore training, moving liquid logistics by modes beyond line haul that are vital connectors in the European and Indo-Pacific theaters. In support of the brigade level command and staff, SIMEX training objectives will remain aligned with supported theaters, and where possible, QLLEX may occur aligned with an existing combatant command level exercise. This year, elements from the 475th QM POL GRP helped plan and execute Joint Logistics Over the Shore in Talisman Saber 23, setting up and operating an Inland Petroleum Distribution System trace with Joint and Allied participants. These exercises are vital to building readiness and interoperability between USARC units and supported combatant commands, while decreasing the time required to deploy into and integrate with a supported theater.

Integration of the Total Force

The success of LSCO hinge on the ability to develop and maintain a bulk petroleum distribution network. QLLEX fosters unity of effort among the all three Army compos providing the sole training opportunity available annually to improve bulk petroleum expertise. Providing inland fuel distribution is a collaborative effort and requires an understanding of Joint operations, Allies and partner capabilities, and resources available from civilian entities. QLLEX has the potential to include a greater number of joint, allied, and commercial bulk petroleum organizations, creating interoperability and interchangeability options vital to success on future battlefields.

Integrating JPOTS and rail tank cars into the QLLEX requires careful planning, coordination, and the development of specific procedures. Integrating JPOTS and RTCs into QLLEX enhances the total force liquid logistics capabilities, making it more versatile and resilient in responding to the demands of modern warfare. This integration ensures that essential fuel resources are readily available with multi-model options to support distribution demands.

Service component commands and allied partners

The evolution of QLLEX involves a notable shift towards emphasizing adaptability and open communication. As the exercise integrates total force components, encompassing the Army National Guard, Army Reserve, and Active Army units, it actively acknowledges the imperative of enhancing coordination and interoperability across various branches and partners. The exercise brings together a diverse range of strategic planners, including unit-level staff planners, Department of Defense agencies, HQDA G4, and DLA-E, while expanding capabilities and development through collaboration with entities such as the U.S Navy’s Office of the Chief of Navy Operations, U.S. Strategic Command, USTRANSCOM, Petroleum and Water Department, Army Petroleum Center, FORSCOM Petroleum Training Module, and the TPC. We extend a cordial invitation to our respected service components and valued allied partners to actively participate in the annual QLLEX. QLLEX stands as a vital training event meticulously designed to elevate the tactical and operational readiness of liquid logistics formations. As the nature of modern warfare undergoes transformation, characterized by multifaceted conflicts on a global scale, the need for a unified and interoperable approach becomes increasingly evident. Engagements in QLLEX offers a unique opportunity to reinforce and strengthen our skills, fostering collaboration across service components, and cultivate interoperability with our allied partners. This exercise serves as an unparalleled platform to simulate the intricacies of LSCO, effectively preparing all participants for the dynamic demands of modern warfare.


Revolutionizing the QLLEX represents a significant step forward in meeting the logistical challenges of LSCO. QLLEX is the keystone for achieving and maintaining tactical and operational readiness for liquid logistics formations. It serves as an invaluable training event, revolutionizing the skills of military personnel in scenarios mirroring the complexities of state vs state level warfare in the most demanding geographic theaters. QLLEX ensures that the Army is well-prepared to support Joint forces on the battlefield. As the landscape of warfare continues to evolve, these innovations in liquid logistics are crucial to maintaining a competitive edge and ensure success against capable state level adversaries operating in expansive theaters.

Article written by Master Sgt. Shaun Lane, 953rd Theater Petroleum Center, 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command