CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. –
A team of nearly 400 Army Reserve Soldiers are spending two-weeks here honing specialized water acquisition, treatment and transportation skills during a Quartermaster Liquid Logistics Exercise (QLLEX).
The QLLEX is the Army Reserve’s premier readiness exercise for fuel and water distribution, and the Soldiers participating in it this year are from the 418th Quartermaster Battalion and the 968th Quartermaster Company.
“What QLLEX tries to recreate is going into a deployed environment where there are no resources established,” said Maj. Shawn Adams, commander of the 418th QM Bn., based in Marana, Arizona.
To get the training started, the quartermasters set up their water purification site on the beach here and began the process of desalinating ocean water, purifying it, and treating it using a Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit (ROWPU).
With a variety of specialized equipment being used, unpredictable ocean waves and hot weather conditions, Adams said his first priority as a commander was the safety of his Soldiers and stated there have been no serious accidents, injuries, or COVID-19 cases during the training exercise.
“Secondary to safety is obviously mission accomplishment,” said Adams. “And that means being careful to not break our equipment. We know despite our best efforts, that things will inevitably break, but we have great mechanics and maintenance Soldiers here standing by to fix anything if it does.”
The exercise started off with that happening despite their best efforts. When the Soldiers first arrived, some of their equipment was already non-operational. They improvised by gathering water from different water points on the base to make sure those who needed the water got it and their mission was completed successfully. While doing this, they also focused on troubleshooting their equipment and getting it up and operational.
“Everything really comes with experience,” said Staff Sgt. Rafael Chavez, a water treatment specialist assigned to the 968th QM Co., stationed in Tustin, Calif.. “There are limitations on what you can and cannot do. But sometimes you have to try and break those limitations in order to make a mission happen.”
Chavez said attention to detail is a crucial part of their job when running the water pumps and other assorted equipment. After the team assessed the malfunctioning equipment, they found a simple error in the wiring. Fixing the equipment allowed them to work through other problems and challenges that came with pumping ocean water directly from the surf and turning it into clean drinkable water within a couple of days.
“I joined the Army Reserve after 9/11 because I didn’t like what happened,” said Chavez. “This was one of the jobs I was offered and I took it. But my passion for water didn’t start until after I joined the military.”
Chavez expressed that in becoming a water treatment specialist through the military and receiving encouragement from people in his life to pursue further education, he decided to make water treatment into a career. He now works for the San Bernardino Municipal Water Department.
“Knowing how this works and doing it on the civilian side, it's just sort of like a continuation of my work. So, it comes hand in hand and it helps a lot,” he said.
With Chavez’s team producing purified water for Soldiers attending the QLLEX, they are able to focus more time on training Soldiers on how to fix equipment when malfunctions occur.
“The biggest thing is that it was a big team effort everybody’s background and experience,” he said. “It was the team willing to step in and say, I want to help, I want to make this possible.”
After completion of the QLLEX, the Soldiers plan to return to their home station with their freshly honed skills and put them to use maintaining their equipment and training to be ready to handle any challenges they might face in future missions.