News: Maintaining more than water pumps
Story by Sgt. Keith Vanklompenberg
CAMP ADDER, Iraq — Soldiers with the 546th Maintenance Company's water pump team work tirelessly to keep the water flowing at Camp Adder, Iraq, and the surrounding areas.
"It's essential to get water out here for drinking, showers, sewage, everything," said Staff Sgt. Jeffrey King, non-commissioned officer in charge of the pump team and an East Orange, N.J., native.
The team, out of Fort Polk, La., maintains the pumps that bring water from the Euphrates River to Camp Adder to be treated and filtered for use. Because Camp Adder sits higher above sea level than the river, it takes multiple systems to pull the water up and canal it into the base.
The team travels to pump sites, run by Iraqi civilians, every couple of days to make sure they work properly and have plenty of fuel.
"We are trying to get the water level back up, so we give them as much fuel as possible," said Spc. Steven Paul, a power generator mechanic with the unit and a Providence, R.I., native.
The Warfighters of the 546th work just as hard to maintain friendships with the local population as they do to maintain the pumps, and they do this by taking care of the local children.
"As long as we have the kids around, it's making the families happy and we feel like we're doing something positive with our mission," said King.
King said his team receives donations from charities in the U.S., as well as the families of his Soldiers, to provide the children in the villages surrounding Camp Adder with clothes, shoes, school supplies and snacks.
These children have grown accustomed to visits from King and his team and flock to the pump sites whenever they stop by. While the fuel handlers take care of the pump generators, other Soldiers line the children up behind one of the vehicles. They wait eagerly in line for anything the service members have to offer.
"Handing out stuff to the kids, that's the best part of the mission," said Paul.
The children come from an impoverished village without adequate healthcare, so the team also provides medical care when they can, Paul said.
"We do what we can with the supplies we have, and try to bandage the kids up if they need it," he said.
Paul said he and the rest of the team share a sense of pride in taking care of the local children, while fulfilling the water needs of Camp Adder.
"It's a good feeling at the end of the day to be doing this," said Paul. "This being my first tour, I'll remember it for a long time."