FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, Kirkuk, Iraq— What do showers, hand washing basins and toilets all have in common? Well, without water none of them would serve much of a purpose. But where does the water that makes these valuable assets worthwhile come from?
For Soldiers at Forward Operating Base McHenry, the water they use to wash their faces, take showers and flush toilets with comes from the "Waterdogs", or water purification specialists from Company A, 15th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, whose mission is to provide clean, potable water across the FOB.
"The mission out here is to provide potable water throughout FOB McHenry," said Sgt. Tanarius Patterson, a Shorter, Ala. native and a water purification specialist with Co. A, 15th BSB.
"The whole FOB is receiving potable water from us," said Staff Sgt. Michael Fleet, a San Diego native and the non-commissioned officer in charge of water purification on FOB Warrior.
"Before we came, it was all non-potable water," said Fleet. "You couldn't even brush your teeth with it."
The process of providing clean, potable water is not a simple one.
According to Fleet, the water starts out in an 80-foot well, where it is pumped to a 3,000 gallon holding tank. The raw water is then pumped through a Reverse-Osmosis Water Purification Unit, which purifies it through three different filtration systems, where it is then pumped to a 20,000 gallon holding bag. This bag is connected to a holding tank where the trucks that distribute water come and fill up at.
"We have become a very critical asset when a unit gets deployed," said Fleet.
The medics, cooks and Soldiers look to us for clean water, said Fleet.
For these Soldiers who are able to see their job directly affect the quality of life for their fellow service members, the rewards are tangible on a daily basis.
"The reward is knowing they [Soldiers] won't have to worry about any contamination," said Spc. Gregory Williams, a Shreveport, La. native, also a water purification specialist for Co. A, 15th BSB.
"It's important for the troops' morale to be able to wash their faces with water and not have to worry about bacteria," said Williams.
According to Fleet, before 15th BSB water purification specialists arrived at FOB McHenry, the only source of clean water was out a water bottle. Showers and hand washing basins were issuing non-potable water which only had small amounts of chlorine added to it to help improve the water quality.
Before we came, the water tested positive for Escherichia Coli, commonly known as E. Coli, which is a type of bacteria that can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, along with other types of illness, said Patterson.
"People feel a difference in the water," said Fleet. "They are happy and comfortable not having to worry about getting E. Coli or any other unwanted bacteria."
"We are here to improve the quality of life," said Fleet.
According to Fleet, Soldiers on FOB McHenry who may not think about where their water comes from, can shower knowing the water is safe and bacteria free and can use the sink water to brush their teeth or wash their faces.
This work, 'Waterdogs' get wet at Forward Operating Base McHenry, by SSG Justin A. Naylor, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.