Liquid logisticians rule at QLLEX 2017

By Timothy L. Hale | U.S. Army Reserve Command | July 21, 2017

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Chinese strategist, Sun Tzu, wrote in his book “The Art of War,” “The line between disorder and order lies in logistics.”

With that in mind, U.S. Army Reserve logisticians from eight states – California, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee – are getting a chance to test their logistics mettle by taking part in QLLEX 2017, at Fort Bragg, July 14-28.

QLLEX, short for Quartermaster Liquid Logistics Exercise, is the U.S. Army Reserve’s premier readiness exercise for fuel and water distribution. This year’s QLLEX is not only a full demonstration of the capability, combat-readiness, and lethality of America’s Army Reserve to put fuel and water where it is needed most – in the vehicles and hands of the war-fighter and maneuver units – but it also further exercises the interoperability of the U.S. Army Reserve alongside active Army and British Army logisticians.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joseph Taflinger, a Petroleum Systems Technician with the 373rd Quartermaster Battalion, Jeffersonville, Indiana, said his unit was assigned three quartermaster companies, an engineer detachment, a transportation company, and a trailer transfer point unit to deploy to Fort Bragg for the QLLEX.

He added that this QLLEX is helping the interoperability between his unit and active Army and allied logisticians.

“The 53rd Quartermaster Company (from Fort Hood) brought seven sustainment Soldiers from the British Army and they’ve been working on the pipeline, the tactical petroleum terminal (fuel farm), and the pumping stations,” Taflinger said.

This interoperability is a key component of the U.S. Army Reserve’s 475th Quartermaster Group, currently the only petroleum and water group in the entire Army after the 49th Quartermaster Group, an active duty unit, was inactivated at Fort Lee, Virginia in 2012.

According to an article in the March-April 2012 issue of “Army Sustainment” magazine, then Col. Philip C. Foster, a U.S. Army Reserve logistician and commander of the 475th Quartermaster Group, wrote, “The great bulk of the Army’s petroleum and water units are in the Army Reserve. QLLEX is an exercise that allows reserve units to train at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels across the United States.”

After the 49th’s inactivation, the U.S. Army Reserve assumed 90-percent of the Army’s liquid logistics capabilities, Foster wrote in the “Army Sustainment” magazine article.

Taflinger said while U.S. Army Reserve maintains this robust petroleum and water capability, it cannot operate alone especially in a contingency operation.

“What we’ve learned from 2001 until now is that you cannot operate as a single component. The National Guard, the active Army, and the U.S. Army Reserve cannot function alone,” Taflinger said. “We have to augment each other. We have to train more realistically. If we were to come out here and it was a completely Army Reserve exercise, you’re not going to get anywhere near like it would be on an actual deployment. The QLLEX helps bridge that gap between the three components.”

Austere environment

The Inland Pipeline Distribution System, or IPDS, was transferred by military transport from Fort Pickett, Va. to Fort Bragg, Taflinger said.

Once it arrived at Fort Bragg, U.S. Army Reserve quartermaster units deployed the system. Approximately 4-miles of 6-inch metal pipe, snaked its way from the IPDS on the western shore of Fort Bragg’s MacArthur Lake, up and down firebreaks flanked by towering long-leaf pine trees. To stay environmentally safe, Taflinger said the product they are pushing through the pipeline during QLLEX is water from the lake.

“The water is actually heavier than petroleum,” he said. “But the pumps are designed to handle the pressure. We haven’t had any significant issues.”

Bernard Howard, with the U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) Petroleum Training Module at Fort Pickett, Virginia, knows all too well the importance of operating the IPDS.

“I was a petroleum supply noncommissioned officer in 2003 with the active Army’s 240th Quartermaster Battalion, 49th Quartermaster Group,” Howard said. “We laid approximately 200 miles of pipeline from Breach-Point West up to Tallil Airfield. It was the largest storage facility for that operation.”

Howard said the advantage of a QLLEX is getting the hands-on experience before you actually need to deploy the system.

“They don’t get to see this equipment every day,” Howard said. “This is a deployable training set so they get to move it from Fort Pickett to theater, in this case it’s Fort Bragg. They bring everybody in just like they would if it was a real-world mission.”

Howard said with the U.S. Army Reserve now operating the only petroleum pipeline and terminal companies, getting the hands-on experience in an austere environment is critical to mission readiness.

“The QLLEX is a really good exercise for these units,” Howard said. “They don’t know what’s coming in the future but at least they have seen it if they get the call.”

For Capt. Brian Cox, commander of the 728th Quartermaster Company, from Fremont, Nebraska, said exercises like a QLLEX help achieve and maintain mission readiness.

“QLLEX identifies your weaknesses. Coming to the field like this, you have to figure it out. That’s the important thing about these exercises,” Cox said. “Learn where you are weak now and correct it before you go to theater.”

For Pvt. Diana Hernandez, from Omaha, Nebraska and a petroleum supply specialist with the 728th, coming to QLLEX has been instrumental in helping her with individual readiness, and thereby, her unit’s readiness.

“We get to actually work on the equipment and move product through the pipeline,” Hernandez said. “It’s definitely preparing me for an actual deployment.”

Clean fuel

A few miles from the IPDS in a field south of Holland Drop Zone, petroleum lab specialists from the 373rd Quartermaster Battalion, test actual military-grade fuel provided by Defense Logistics Agency-Environmental as part of the QLLEX. The testing will help the unit achieve DLA certification to add to their current Army certification.

“We test the fuels use in aircraft, vehicles, or generators,” said Spc. Andrew Price, from Jeffersonville, Indiana. “We have to test it before it can be used.”

Price said QLLEX gives the unit the opportunity to set-up and test the lab to make sure everything is in working order to ensure mission readiness should they be called for a contingency operation.

“We get hands-on training and run the lab like we would if we were overseas,” Price said.

Allied logisticians

British Army logisticians Staff Sgt. Barry Langley and Staff Sgt. Samuel Korankye, were at Fort Bragg with the 53rd Quartermaster Company from Fort Hood, Texas. Langley, in the British Army Reserve, and Korankye, in the active British Army, are assigned to the 152nd (North Irish) Regiment, Royal Logistics Corps, in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

“Getting to know your systems and how you work and recognizing that we’re very similar but the scale of the operation is a little different,” Langley said. “We do lay pipeline in the British Army but the sheer speed in which you do it is fantastic.”

Langley said they are always looking for ways on how their equipment can operate alongside American equipment.

“We’re hoping that maybe next year we can bring some of our kit and have that true interoperability,” Langley said.

Korankye said the flexibility of American Soldiers to meet mission requirements is much different than what he is used to in the British Army.

“What I’ve seen over here is you are very flexible with your time,” Korankye said. “You can go to the left or you can go to the right and still meet mission. It’s one of the things that was a real eye-opener.”

Water, water, everywhere

Fuel may keep everything in the Army moving, but nothing keeps Soldiers moving like have fresh water to drink, shower, and keeping uniforms fresh.

On the eastern shore of MacArthur Lake, logisticians with the U.S. Army Reserve’s 326th Quartermaster Company, from Newcastle, Pennsylvania, are operating a Tactical Water Purification System and Tactical Water Distribution System (TWPS and TWDS) to bring fresh water to the troops to be used in field cooking, laundry, and showers.

Capt. Ronald Hennon, commander of the 326th, said with the heat that has settled over Fort Bragg the past week, water is a valuable commodity.

“Obviously for drinking it’s very important but at the end of the day it’s the shower that is really appreciated,” Hennon said. “To do two weeks in the Carolina heat without a shower would be a long time.”

Spc. Brandon Sherve, a water purification specialist with the 326th, said the unit has been meeting their mission of getting clean water out of the lake since they arrived.

“The water comes out of the lake, goes through the reverse osmosis process in the TWPS and then is distributed through the TWDS back to the LSA (Logistics Support Area),” Sherve said. “There the water is used for cooking, showers, and washing clothes.”

Hennon said participating in QLLEX is helping his unit achieve mission readiness.

“We met our window for having clean water ready for the Soldiers at the LSA when they needed it and we’ll keep producing,” he said.

Clean Soldiers are happy Soldiers

Many of the Soldiers at the QLLEX said with the temperatures at Fort Bragg hovering in the high 90s to low 100s during the exercise, having clean uniforms to wear and getting a shower have been instrumental in keeping their spirits high.

Pfc. Shanee Johnson, a laundry and bath specialist with the 275th Quartermaster Company, based in Fort Pickett, said they have been averaging about 400 bags of laundry a day using the LADS (Laundry Advanced System).

Think of the LADS as a mobile laundromat, except it is mounted on a flatbed trailer.

“The LADS not only washes the dirty laundry, it also dries it in the same drum it was washed,” Johnson said.

The 275th is also running the portable showers allowing all the Soldiers at QLLEX to wash off the dirt and sweat at the end of a long day.

“Our mission if very vital. At the end of the day it’s a huge morale boost to be clean and have clean uniforms,” Johnson said.

One Soldier that was especially thankful for clean uniforms and a shower was Spc. Antonio Golden, a food service specialist with the 275th. Golden had just finished his shower and was walking across the LSA wearing a clean uniform.

“It’s amazing!” Golden said. “I had been in the field kitchen since before breakfast and all I wanted to do was get a shower and cool off. I feel like a new person!”

Exercise meets real-world

In addition to the training aspect of QLLEX, there is a real-world mission going on at Fort Bragg involving fuel transport.

Military tanker trucks from five U.S. Army Reserve transportation units in Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, South Carolina, and Texas, are running fuel to customers at Fort Bragg and Pope Army Airfield.

“They convoyed here from their home stations to make these fuel runs as part of QLLEX,” said Capt. David Zuzak, with the 402nd Quartermaster Battalion, New Castle, Pennsylvania. “The 402nd is supporting this real-world mission as part of the QLLEX. They pick up the fuel at nearby locations then transport it to the customers.”