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Water Dogs: The Unsung Heroes of Sustainment
Story by CPT Anthony Richards on 07/27/2019
Soldiers need to drink water, do laundry, bathe, eat, and sanitize equipment every day. These simple needs and luxuries are such a seamless part of everyday life, it is easy to forget there are many hardworking soldiers responsible for making these amenities available to their comrades living in austere environments around the world. Therefore, the U.S. Army Reserve’s Water Treatment Specialists (92W) are some of the most unsung heroes in the military.
Quartermaster Liquid Logistics Exercise (QLLEX) 2019 is under way at Fort Dix-McGuire-Lakehurst, New Jersey. U.S. Army Reserve Soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Bethany Smith, a water treatment specialist, endures 99 degrees of heat and nearly 100 percent humidity in heat category-5 uniform to ensure the smooth and uninterrupted delivery of 3,000 gallons of potable water per hour to hundreds of battle buddies throughout the battalion.
Water treatment specialists are primarily responsible for supervising or performing the installation and operation of water purification equipment, as well as dealing with water storage and distribution operations and activities. They also inspect facilities and food supplies for the presence of disease, germs or other conditions hazardous to health and the environment.
In Her Boots
Eighteen years of service, four college degrees, and endless gallons of potable water later, Bethany continues to passionately, dedicate her life to the service of her country as well as her local community in Freeland, Michigan as a registered nurse.
When asked why she joined the Army, she explained it was a combination of the education benefits and because many of her family members have servedthree generations now.
“It was a sense of responsibility to serve and help others, that’s also why I’m in nursing, that’s who I am.”
Bethany takes great pride in her job and defines her role as a water treatment specialist in one simple sentence, “We supply water to the force.”
Like many soldiers in the Reserve, Bethany lives outside of reasonable commuting distance to where her unit conducts monthly battle assembly. The five-hour drive or flight to Pennsylvania is supplemented by Reserve travel programs that cover costs of up to $500.
Bethany also credits her military experiencespecifically discipline, work ethic, and leadership skillsas a key contributor to her professional growth and success in her civilian career.
“They see that experience on your resume and know that you’re disciplined and have great work ethic.”
The Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit (ROWPU)
The ROWPU is the water treatment specialist’s most vital piece of equipment. An argument could be made that the ROWPU is the most important piece of equipment in the military. Why? Because it fuels the most important piece of equipment in the nation’s largest fighting forcethe soldier’s body. It has the ability to provide drinkable water from a variety of raw water sources such as wells, lakes, oceans, rivers, ice holes and more.
The 326th Quartermaster Company pumps their water from Brindle Lake into large storage bags called “onion skins”. The storage bags are nicknamed onion skins because they look like onions when full. The raw water is turned into clean potable water with the help of the ROWPU. It uses a variety of chemicals and membranes to purify the water and prevent various waterborne diseasessuch as typhoid and dysenteryso it can be safely consumed and used for personal hygiene and field sanitation.
QLLEX began in the 1980s and is the largest Army-wide petroleum and water transportation exercise conducted in the continental U.S. The U.S. Army Reserve conducts QLLEX to provide experience to their soldiers using equipment in the critical tasks of loading, unloading and transporting fuel and water. The exercise allows Reserve units to train at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels across various locations throughout the United States. Quartermaster battalions and companies across the nation conduct real-world missions delivering petroleum over thousands of miles, utilizing thousands of vehicles.