Water Support of Exercise Bright Star
by Steven L. Mayerhoefer
There is nothing more critical to desert operations than water. It is the lifeblood of our soldiers. To meet this critical requirement, the planners for Exercise Bright Star '97 explored the use of packaged water and ice systems designed by the Army Forces Command (FORSCOM). Third Army coordinated with FORSCOM to deploy the water-packaging system (WPS) and the containerized ice plant (CIP) to Egypt and provide bag water and ice to the class I (subsistence) point, which was the 18th Quartermaster Company from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The FORSCOM Materiel Management Center's (FMMC's) water team set up their water operations at Pyramid Base, which was near the Mubarak Military Community. The team was attached to the 87th Corps Support Battalion (CSB), 24th Corps Support Group, Fort Stewart, Georgia. The exercise offered the FMMC an opportunity to deploy the WPS and the new CIP and support U.S. forces in a large multiservice exercise. The desert provided a new operating environment for "stressing" the systems.
Water Packaging System
Although the WPS consists of both commercial and military equipment, its primary component is a commercial, vertical-feed, form, fill, and seal machine that packages water in 1-liter bags at a rate of 28 bags per minute. This machine is the same as the type used by industry to package potato chips, individual packs of condiments, liquid soaps, candies, and most other products that require packaging. Some of the military components in the WPS are a trailer; 3,000-gallon water storage bladders (onion skins); a "water buffalo" (400-gallon water tank); a 20-foot, expandable shelter; pumps; and hoses from a reverse osmosis water purification unit (ROWPU). The form, fill, and seal machine is housed inside a shelter to provide a sanitary work environment and protection for the equipment. The shelter is mounted on a 40-foot trailer for mobility. Secondary items, tools, spare parts, and supplies are transported in 20-foot ISO containers. During the last 2 years, the WPS has supported Bosnia operations; Exercise Roving Sands '96 in New Mexico; Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; and Bright Star '97.
|One-liter water bags exit the form, fill, and seal machine and drop into a catch box at a rate of 28 bags per minute.|
The WPS has been transported by ship, train, plane, and military and commercial trucks. It functions well in most environments. FORSCOM has three WPS's in its inventory. Water processed through the WPS is always from a water source that has been approved by the local preventive medicine (PM) unit. The source water is processed through a ROWPU and tested by the PM unit before packaged water production begins.
|Soldiers from the 87th CSB help pack and palletize packaged water. The water will be inventoried, loaded, and shipped downrange.|
Containerized Ice Plant
The CIP also consists of both commercial and military equipment. Like the WPS, the commercial ice machine is housed inside an expandable, trailer-mounted shelter. The military equipment includes 3,000-gallon water storage bladders and a 400-gallon water buffalo. This is the first Army prototype for a deployable ice plant, and Bright Star '97 was the first time it had been deployed. The CIP produces up to 10,000 pounds of 1-inch tube ice per day. The packaging system automatically packages the ice in 20-pound bags. Like the WPS, the CIP uses water that has been processed through a ROWPU and tested by the PM unit before packaged water production begins.
Bright Star '97 was also the first time soldiers were involved in a packaged water and ice operation. Earlier packaged-water missions in Hungary and for Exercise Roving Sands '96 were conducted by contractors. Quartermaster Corps water purification specialists (military occupational specialty [MOS] 77W) worked with the FORSCOM water team and helped to operate the WPS and CIP equipment. Eight soldiers assisted with water and ice production, and they clearly demonstrated that they have the technical ability to operate the WPS and CIP. The 87th CSB provided additional soldiers (various MOS's) to help box the packaged water and ice and stack the boxes on pallets.
Using military labor reduces the cost of packaged water and ice operations by replacing contracted labor. However, any packaged water and ice operation supported by soldiers needs to be evaluated closely to en ure that it does not detract from the unit's primary mission or operating tempo.
|Both the water-packaging system (left) and the containerized ice plant (right) are housed inside expandable, trailer-mounted shelters and use water that has been processed through a reverse osmosis water purification unit.|
Because the WPS and CIP systems operated in a desert environment, they required some additional procedures, as expected, to maintain acceptable sanitary conditions and operational standards. Plexiglas doors were added to the systems to keep sand from blowing into the work areas, and dryers were placed on the air compressors to help prevent moisture buildup in the air lines. These modifications helped with sanitation and equipment reliability, but additional cleaning was required to maintain a sterile work environment within the shelters. Severe sandstorms sometimes stopped production of packaged water and ice. Soldiers outside who operated the forklift, boxed and palletized the bag water, and transferred ice bags into reefer vans had to stop work and move inside until the storms were over.
The CIP performed well for 12 days and then developed an electrical problem that was not related to the desert environment. It was disappointing that the replacement part could not be received in time to continue ice production. The water team will review the current prescribed load list (PLL) and possibly increase the PLL lines to prevent unnecessary down time and improve support in the future.
The benefits of using the packaged water and ice systems for major exercises and deployments include reduced costs, quality control of drinking water, reduced transportation requirements, deployable systems, shorter reorder time, cost savings over alternative commercial products, improved command and control, mass storage (versus daily production), same-day delivery, reduced risk of tampering during shipment, and suitability for various distribution methods.
The packaged water and ice operation offers the military and other Government activities an alternative means of providing water support of major exercises, deployments, and disaster operations. Packaged water and ice are sensitive commodities that can be produced within the patrolled perimeters of U.S. forces, reducing the threat from terrorists.
Commanders are encouraged to use WPS's and CIP's during major exercises and deployments. The systems are also available to support Federal Emergency Management Agency operations during national disasters. For additional information, call (404) 464-7637 (DSN 367-7637) or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Editor's Note: Since this article was written, the FORSCOM water team deployed to Thailand to provide packaged water and ice support to Exercise Cobra Gold '98. The team was sponsored by U.S. Army, Pacific, and was attached to the 17th Forward Support Battalion. The CIP received great responses from the troops, who felt that ice is a great commodity to have in the field. Temperatures in Thailand were usually over 100 degrees with 100-percent humidity. ALOG
Steven L. Mayerhoefer is the project officer for the water-packaging system and the containerized ice plant in the Materiel Management Center, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics and Readiness, Army Forces Command, Fort McPherson, Georgia. He has a bachelor's degree in business administration from Shorter College in Marietta, Georgia.