2nd Lt. Liz Lopez
210th BSB, 2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)
Multi-National Division – Center
PATROL BASE DRAGON, Iraq — Outside the Army, the job of water purification specialist might be associated with Pauly Shore’s comedy film In the Army Now. But the crazy antics of the comedian don’t do justice to the days of toil and sweat that real-life “water dawgs” live to ensure that the Soldiers they support have fresh water at forward locations in Iraq.
Nowhere is this labor more obvious than in the water purification section of Company A, 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, “Commandos,” 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y.
Soldiers of the section are responsible for getting water – critical especially in Iraq’s triple-digit temperatures – spread throughout the Commandos’ battle space. Five water-purification sites have been established at forward locations, and are now run by no more than two Soldiers per site.
Despite the competitive efforts of every Soldier in Co. A, the operations at one site stand out from the rest.
At Patrol Base Dragon, Sgt. Neil Buddle, a native of Terre Haute, Ind., and Pfc. Luis Rivera, a native of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, spend the majority of each day purifying the water pumped from a nearby canal for use in cooking, showers, and laundry. At Dragon, the team sustains not only American, but Iraqi soldier operations as well.
But the people they serve are not what make this particular site special. Recently, the ‘water dawg’ operations at Dragon have come into focus as the patrol base prepares for a large influx of Soldiers; soon, the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment will move to this location from Yusufiyah as the 4th Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division takes over the security of the town.
With so many new people coming to their patrol base, the water purification mission at Dragon must adapt to accommodate the additional personnel.
Since his arrival at the patrol base in November, when it was established, Buddle has been the go-to guy for anything that has to do with water. He has created methods for purifying enough water as the location grew, disposing of waste water, and establishing luxury items like showers and laundry points. Therefore, it is no surprise the incoming unit has come to him for advice at this juncture.
“It’s demanding, one of those jobs in which you’ve got to think outside the box,” said Buddle. “I like challenges, and this job is a very challenging job.”
With the upcoming arrival of a battalion’s worth of Soldiers, Buddle faces quite a test. Part of it will be increasing water production and waste disposal methods. Thankfully for the new personnel, the Dragon team seems more than adequately equipped to handle the situation.
At present, Buddle and Rivera are capable of producing 600 gallons of water per hour using a reverse osmosis water purification unit, and can store up to 15,000 gallons of potable water.
Prior to the new Soldiers’ arrival, they will receive a new ROWPU which will increase their production capabilities fivefold. The team also has plans to expand their storage capacity to 40,000 gallons of water.
“It’s about service,” said Rivera. “It’s about teamwork.”
The ‘water dawgs’ have both. The pair works as a tag team, producing water as they pump it out for distribution across the patrol base. In one day, the team was able to produce and distribute more than 8,000 gallons, including 3,000 gallons to send to other forward battle positions which lack their own water purification systems. This team effort will become even more essential as water demands swell with the population.
Their task is not easy. The Soldiers work outside in the hot sun for hours every day, monitoring production and dissemination. Many days, the job can be repetitive, but the Soldiers would never call it boring.
The job requires quick thinking and problem solving skills as water demands change. The ‘water dawgs’ from the 210th Brigade Support Battalion have become experts at fitting square pegs into round holes. Before their deployment ends, they will be doing it again.
For now it is enough to know that being a water purification specialist is not a laughing matter.
Friday, August 10, 2007
2nd Lt. Liz Lopez