FORT PICKETT, Va. --
At the edge of a small body of water, three tents sit unassumingly against surrounding vegetation. Aside from their shelter, this outpost’s only other structures are a collection of tubes and machines making a loud noise, as if they’re gurgling the water sucked from the lake.
The Marines are separated from their unit for a majority of the three-day-long interval shifts here. Large trucks veer down a dusty road approaching the three Marines, seeking a vital ingredient to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s pre-deployment training – water. The job of these isolated warriors is important, yet simple. They provide life-sustaining, shower-allowing, clothes-washing, thirst-quenching water.
As Marines of the 24th MEU’s Combat Logistics Battalion 24 and Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion 6th Marine Regiment conduct pre-deployment exercises in surrounding areas, these ‘Water Dogs’ pump out thousands of gallons of water to support their needs.
“Our mission is to supply the forward operating base with all water: drinking, medical, shower water. Anything dealing with water is essential to anything getting done,” said Pfc. Jonathan Bukowiec, basic water support technician, CLB-24.
Purifying, filtering, storing and delivering the water is now more efficient with the addition of a new water purification system, the Tactical Water Purification System (TWPS).
Replacing a reverse osmosis machine as the water filtration of choice for the 24th MEU, the new TWPS system offers significant advantages.
“We can push 1,500 gallons an hour; from saltwater we can push out 1,200,” said Pfc. Patrick Howard, basic water support technician, CLB-24.
Considering the 24th MEU elements on Fort Pickett are consuming around 1,600 gallons per day, TWPS is easily capable of supporting their mission.
“It works great. We are over quota right now. We are producing more water than we actually need to, so it’s working better than we need it to. We have two units and we only need one to get the job done,” explained Bukowiec. ‘If something were to come up like Katrina, these things would be 10 times better than what we used back then.”
Bukowiec’s point applies not only to the efficiency the system produces drinkable water twice as fast as the unit it replaces, but the speed with which they can pour out that first glass of clean water. The reverse osmosis machines could take up to 12 hours to set up, a far cry from the TWPS.
“It takes two hours to have everything on hand and running, and it takes another half an hour to get it producing water. So two-and-a-half hours from start to finish to having water ready,” added Bukowiec.
TWPS also requires significantly less down time for maintenance and has a built-in nuclear, biological and chemical protection, said Staff Sgt. James Shorter, engineer platoon staff non-commissioned officer-in-charge, CLB-24.
“It cleans itself every 15 minutes, that way it can continue purifying water. The past (system) you had to manually backwash,” he added, explaining that such a process required taking the water purifier offline for an hour.
This simple and easy to overlook service offered by the CLB, offers a demonstrative advantage to the 24th MEU commander, quickly assisting those in need or sustaining a troop footprint on the ground without running out of water.