149th Brigade Support Battalion delivers

By Maj. Carla Raisler, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Spc. Chase Byrum, petroleum supply specialist with Distribution Company, 149th Brigade Support Battalion fuels an M978A4 HEMTT Tanker at Harold L. Disney training area, June 5, 2016 in preparation for a Logistics Package (LOGPAC) convoy.  The convoy transported freshly purified water from the site to the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., more than 250 miles away. (US Army National Guard photo by Maj. Carla Raisler)

Spc. Chase Byrum, petroleum supply specialist with Distribution Company, 149th Brigade Support Battalion fuels an M978A4 HEMTT Tanker at Harold L. Disney training area, June 5, 2016 in preparation for a Logistics Package (LOGPAC) convoy. The convoy transported freshly purified water from the site to the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., more than 250 miles away. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Maj. Carla Raisler)

ARTEMUS, Ky. — Soldiers from the 149th Brigade Support Battalion conducted water purification and convoy operations across the commonwealth during annual training June 4-18, 2016.

It takes an entire battalion to support the critical mission of delivering supplies to units across the state. One of the mission critical tasks is water purification.

The team that operates the Tactical Water Purification System (TWPS) is the only one of its kind remaining in the Kentucky National Guard.  This is the first time the unit is conducting collective training to produce clean water and deliver it by military convoy to Greenville, Kentucky nearly 250 miles from its point of origin at the Harold L. Disney Training Site in Artemus.

Sgt. Earl Cooper, a water treatment specialist with the Distribution Company explains the process of setting up and running the TWPS in a field environment.

“The setup and operation takes three people and can produce 1,500 gallons of clean water per hour for up to 20 hours a day,” said Cooper. “In this setup our biggest challenge was to figure out how to pull the water all the way up this hill,’ motioning to a 100 foot slope, dense with vegetation, leading down to the Cumberland River.

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In order to pull the water up the 100 foot slope, a diesel powered hose is used.  This provides enough suction to get the water into the first holding bag.

Once the water goes through the purification process it is certified by Barbourville’s water treatment plant. Eric Trent, an analyst with the water treatment plant, tests the sample with Colilert-18, which simultaneously detects both total coliforms and Escherichia coli in the water.

“It takes 18 hours to test the water,” Trent says. “It has to test negative for any bacteria to be considered safe.”

The ability to provide potable water to Soldiers in the field and to civilians during declared emergencies is essential to maintaining and sustaining life, explains Lt. Col. Kevin Jones, commander 149th Brigade Support Battalion.

“Three days without water is all it takes before it becomes a crisis” said Jones. “With only one water purification team in the state that means we are it.  We are who gets the call.”

Those calls average two to three times per year, and it is everything from frozen city pipes to destruction caused by natural disasters.

“The water section is my critical mission, if we can’t provide water we can’t do our job for Kentucky,” said Jones.

Once the water is ready, it is transported by logistics package (LOGPAC).  For this training event the 149th is supporting the 206th Engineers and the 617th Military Police in Greenville, by sending a LOGPAC every three days delivering 3,000 gallons of fuel, 2,000 gallons of water, and 240 MREs.  The convoy consists of seven vehicles and is a six-hour drive. Staff Sgt. Stephen Anderson, Field Supply (92F), with the distribution company, is the convoy commander and is charged with making sure the supplies make it to their destination.

“It’s my job as the convoy commander to ensure that everyone knows what the purpose of the mission is and to ensure the safety of my Soldiers,” said Anderson.  “For this mission we are providing fuel, water, and commodities to the 206th Engineer Battalion, but we can supply anyone in the whole state who requests it,” said Anderson.

The success of these missions rely heavily on the support from the Field Maintenance Company (FMC) and the Headquarter and Headquarters Company (HHC).  Both companies support the distribution company by providing personnel support, maintenance, field mess, and supply.

Field maintenance is a combination of organizational and direct support and includes tasks that directly return a system to an operational status.  Chief Warrant Officer Adam Fagan, automotive maintenance officer, is one of the mechanics responsible for repairing and maintaining vehicles throughout the brigade.

“We are responsible for maintaining over 400 vehicles” said Fagan, “The most rewarding part of my job is mentoring Soldiers who don’t have strong backgrounds in mechanics because we are able to broaden and enhance their knowledge on vehicle maintenance.”

The HHC supports and sustains the overall mission, and is responsible for the health, welfare, and morale of the battalion.  With more than 60 personnel, the HHC works long hours to ensure that they are providing the resources necessary to allow their subordinate units to accomplish their mission

Command Sergeant Major Greg Thomas is the principal advisor to the battalion commander on matters regarding enlisted personnel.

“The most important thing to the health of this organization is a strong noncommissioned officer corps,” said Thomas.  “Our junior and senior NCOs are the ones that make things happen.”

And make things happen they did.  Every company worked together to defend their area, overcome obstacles,  train on Army Warrior Tasks, and push out much needed supplies across the commonwealth.

It takes an entire battalion to sustain the fight.