In the arid environment
of Iraq, National Guard units are meeting
the Army’s need for the most basic supply of all—clean
Water purification units still exist in the military. Although
not used as widely as they once were, water purification units
still can provide potable water within a theater of operations.
Drinking water—often provided in the form of bottled
water—is the most important use of potable water, but
showers, laundries, and dining facilities also need a lot.
At Logistics Support Area (LSA) Anaconda in Balad, Iraq, the
641st Quartermaster Detachment teamed up with the 909th Quartermaster
Detachment to purify water and with the 610th Quartermaster
Company to distribute the resulting clean water. All of these
units are Army National Guard units: the 641st from Ohio, the
909th from Guam, and the 610th from the Virgin Islands.
On arrival, the 641st and 909th were thrilled to have a mission
for which they had trained back home. They immediately went
purifying as much water as
they could. However, the condition of the site and equipment
at LSA Anaconda was not what they had expected. The water site
at LSA Anaconda was located along the fence line and completely
open. The ground was muddy and saturated with water, causing
some equipment to sink and lean to one side. To resolve these
problems, an engineering company was contracted to dig up the
mess and lay a solid base of gravel that would help disperse
the water that constantly drained out of the reverse osmosis
water purification units. To provide force protection, T-walls
were placed along the fence. The units’ mechanics then
began the long and strenuous job of repairing equipment to
bring it to the proper Army standards.
the wire, the berm has been leveled to prevent erosion.
Equipment is lined up to
maximize efficiency and reduce the amount of
Outside the fence, a small berm separated LSA
Anaconda and a manmade concrete canal that branched off the
Tigris River. The berm was beginning to erode and wash down
into the water, which caused more problems with the water purification
equipment as it tried to filter and clean the dirty water.
So another contract was set to level the berm and lay a gravel
prevent further erosion.
While all the site improvements were being made, the 641st
and 909th Quartermaster Detachments continued to purify water.
During the winter months of 2005 to 2006, the temperature of
the water dropped to near freezing. At these low temperatures,
the civilian contractors had trouble meeting the demand for
water supply, so they called on the military to boost production.
Operating with two shifts running 12 hours each, the 641st
and 909th produced over 5 million gallons of water in less
than 3 weeks. The maintenance section continued to improve
the water purification equipment despite the aggressive production
of the maintenance section
fix a high-pressure pump on one of the
From the beginning, the detachments not only operated at
LSA Anaconda but also sent four separate teams to forward
bases (FOBs). All of the Soldiers on each FOB relied on the
small water purification team to provide them water for
showers and food. After a long day outside the wire, these
came back to the FOB looking for a shower and hot food. Without
fresh, potable water, they would have been disappointed and
these basic needs would not have been met.
Some teams at these FOBs purified water from streams, while
some purified water from a well. They had to maintain water
purification equipment themselves, or wait until a mechanic
could be sent from LSA Anaconda. Because of the remote locations
of some of the FOBs, it sometimes took several days to send
supplies or mechanical help. Some FOBs also were more susceptible
to attacks from insurgents. Improvements to water sites at
these FOBs therefore were a must for the Soldiers’ welfare.
HESCO barriers and T-walls were put up to protect equipment
and water bags, and bunkers were erected to provide protection
for personnel. Some FOBs even consolidated their U.S. and
Coalition Forces areas, giving the rest of the FOB to the
new Iraqi Army.
In these cases, the water site was located in the Iraqi Army
section of the FOB and the water purification team had to
learn to deal with the Iraqi Army and the language barrier.
At Forward Operating Base Gabe, a sergeant of the
Detachment distributes water to a KBR contractor.
Trucks pull up to the distribution site and honk
their horn for service. (Below) After the engineers
laid a solid base of gravel, the
3,000-gallons-per-hour reverse osmosis water purification
units (ROWPUs) were placed on skids and protected
by concrete barriers.
The 641st and 909th Quartermaster
Detachments produced over 62 million gallons of potable water
for LSA Anaconda and all
remote locations. However, civilian contractors slowly
are assuming the entire water operation at LSA Anaconda and
at a few of the FOBs. The ultimate goal is to let civilian
contractors purify all the water.
First Lieutenant Michael P. Ketcham, OHARNG, was the
Water Purification Platoon Leader for the 641st Quartermaster
at Logistics Support Area Anaconda in Balad, Iraq. He has
a B.S. degree in accountancy from Wright State University
and is a graduate of the Quartermaster Officer Basic Course.