Out of the field and into the petroleum lab

By Kimberly Derryberry | CCDC Ground Vehicle Systems Center | Aug. 8, 2019

NEW CUMBERLAND, PA —

Nestled in the Cumberland hills of Pennsylvania on a post run by the Defense Logistics Agency, a small laboratory resides that is vital to the mission and safety of the Army. Supported by chemists and technicians, the CCDC Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC) U.S. Army Petroleum Laboratory performs critical tests and evaluations on military mobility fuels and lubricants. The petroleum lab provides quality assurance as it tests multiple types of fuels, lubricating oils, and even coal.

Recently, three Reserve Soldiers of the 786th Quartermaster Company based in Utah, 364th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, had the chance to train with Army chemists learning the purpose behind what the Army has taught them to do in their military occupational skill.

Sgt. Michael Dicesare, petroleum laboratory specialist assigned to the 786th QMC, usually tests petroleum on battle assembly weekends or during annual training in a Petroleum Quality Analysis System – Enhanced (PQAS-E), a self-contained mobile petroleum laboratory. 

Although petroleum laboratory specialists attend an annual course to ensure they are knowledgeable of the most up-to-date information in their field, Dicesare says working with the chemists is now teaching him the “why”, not the “what.” 

“We are doing the exact same thing here that we do in the PQAS-E,” said Dicesare, “but we are learning more of why things are instead of just ‘do them’ like the Army tells us to. We’re getting the back-knowledge. We’ve had different discussions on chemistry like why fuel floats on water, why the chemical changes colors in this fashion… it’s like getting a little bit of an organic chemistry course.”
The samples Discesare and the other two Soldiers tested were real-world samples sent to the U.S. Army Petroleum Laboratory. 

“If we were doing a [Quality Lab Exercise], we would test real fuel, but we already understand that the sample has already been run through a DLA lab so the results don’t matter as much,” said Discesare. “We’ll care though when we roll in to some country that doesn’t have a lab and then it will really matter. That’s why we practice.”

Petroleum laboratory specialists complete 10 weeks of advanced individual training (AIT) to learn several testing methods as well as how to work various pieces of lab equipment before being sent to the field to perform their duties in mobile facilities.

The experience for Soldiers to work with actual Army chemists in a brick-and-mortar facility was facilitated through Pauline Kline, chief for the U.S. Army Petroleum Laboratory. 

“This is a unique training opportunity for these Soldiers and we’re glad to have these rotations come through here,” said Kline. “We’ve seen great enthusiasm from these Soldiers. We even had one say he’d be interested in working here.”

The U.S. Army Petroleum Laboratory provides efficient quality surveillance (QS) of U.S. government-owned petroleum products worldwide. The lab provides technical support to active-duty Army, Reserve, and National Guard installations through its QS testing of bulk fuels. The lab also provides shelf life extension testing of package petroleum products to the DOD.

“The testing conducted by this lab directly impacts the Warfighter on a daily basis,” said Doug Hedberg, associate director of Force Projection Technology, GVSC. “Results from the lab testing of fuel are needed by the Warfighter to take delivery of the bulk fuel and to release fuel for use in ground and aviation systems.”