News: Michigan Army Reserve unit quenches BTH thirst
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Walter Van Ochten
COLON, Panama - The 301st Quartermaster Company, 406th Combat Service Support Battalion, headquartered in Grand Rapids, Mich., arrived here in late March to provide water purification support to Task Force Panama as part of Beyond the Horizon-Panama 2013 (BTH-Panama 2013).
BTH-Panama 2013, a humanitarian and civic assistance mission sponsored by U.S. Army South and U.S. Southern Command, deploys U.S. military engineers and medical professionals to Panama for training and to provide humanitarian assistance in cooperation with the host nation.
According to Sgt. 1st Class Brian Helmick, a water treatment supervisor from Grand Rapids, Mich., the unit’s mission here is straight forward.
“We’re here to provide all the potable water for the task force,” said Helmick.” The water we produce is of a higher quality than bottled water in that we completely remove all the total dissolved solids from the water.”
Total dissolved solids are all inorganic and organic substances contained in water. Debris such as minerals and sands are disbanded and suspended in the water sources, and it is this unit’s job to remove these particles from the water.
“We can purify water from virtually any water source into potable drinking water through the use of one of two different types of reverse osmosis water purification units we have here,” said Staff Sgt. Kevin Dipiazza, a water purification supervisor from Hisperia, Mich.
Reverse osmosis water purification units are portable, self-contained water plants. They have two types of purification systems for this mission: a tactical water purification system and a lightweight water purification system.
The tactical water purification system, of which they have two, can be carried on a medium tactical vehicle replacement truck, and can filter 1,500 gallons per hour. They also have one transportable lightweight water purification system that can filter 150 gallons per hour.
According to Sgt. Bradley S. Carpenter, a water treatment supervisor from Byron, Mich., the lightweight water purification system stands ready to pull water from the Atlantic Ocean should there be a disruption in the non-potable water supply for showers and laundry.
Typically, they are using just one of their tactical water purification systems with the other serving as a back up. Nonetheless, they would be able to take 27,000 gallons of raw water and turn it in to clean, clear water for use daily.
The water is distributed to the service members via the five 400-gallon “water buffaloes” Task Force Panama brought down for the mission.
A “water buffalo” is a combined water tank and trailer that is used to transport potable water daily to troops out on the three ongoing construction sites here in nearby villages.
The other two “water buffaloes” stay back to provide water for the field kitchen and support personnel.
The water is used for food service and drinking water for more than 200 personnel of Task Force Panama. Currently, the task force is using about 2,000 gallons a day, which is well within the capabilities of the Michigan unit to produce.