Find a Security Clearance Job!

Military

Center for Army Lesson Learned Banner
CALL Newsletter 04-13
Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)
CAAT II Initial Impressions Report (IIR)

Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)
CAAT II Initial Impressions Report (IIR)

Chapter 4: Combat Service Support
Topic A: Supply the Force

Subtopic 1: Water Operations in OIF

Observation Synopsis

There are no water distribution or storage assets within brigade combat teams (BCT) other than for nuclear/biological/chemical (NBC) requirements. The MTOE for an Army of Excellence (AOE) BCT within Force XXI needs to be changed so that assets are available to distribute and hold water - the corps support group (CSG) maintains the production capability. One forward support battalion (FSB) obtained a 5K-water tanker through lateral transfer from another unit and strapped a 3K SMFT on the back of a stake and platform (S&P) trailer for distribution. However, since the FSB is not designed to provide water distribution, personnel were taken out of hide to perform the water missions - thus impacting other missions.

There were forward operating bases (FOBs) without a water source - no wells, canals, or creeks - which required water to be trucked in. Some of the FOBs have water sources nearby, but still "outside the wire." Tactical water distribution system (TWDS) was not a reliable option, as it was subject to frequent sabotage. Additional force protection was added to these sites to secure the water source.

There are numerous FOBs that did not have access to city water for nonpotable water requirements, and had to rely on reverse osmosis water purification unit (ROWPU) water for all water requirements. This was primarily because there were not enough distribution and storage assets for non-potable water. Once a water bag or semi-trailer mounted fabric tank (SMFT) is used for non-potable water, it cannot be used for potable water. Even if there was a process to refit the bags to make them suitable for potable water storage, the means to accomplish that does not exist in this austere environment. The non-potable water requirement was, on average, just as great as the potable water requirement. However, because of the risk associated with using bags for both types of bulk water, units were forced to rely solely on potable water for all bulk water requirements. Aircraft washing became a large consumer of bulk water. This would be a perfect candidate for bulk non-potable water; however, since there was no ability to store or transport non-potable water, units were forced to use large quantities of ROWPU water for these operations.

Water distribution compatibility was also an issue. The 5K SMFT can only fit on an M872 trailer, which none of the FSBs has. Only 3K SMFTs will fit on an 871 trailer; however, 3K SMFTs are in extremely short supply. In one case the CSG managed to cut and re-bind 5K SMFTs and make them into 3K SMFTs. After some trial and error, these did eventually work very well. An additional issue with compatibility was the waste incurred when using a 5K SMFT to fill a 3K bag. Because there is no way to staunch the flow from a 5K bag, 2K of water would inevitably end up dumped on the ground.

Much of the Army's water storage systems are unsuited for long-term use, and were fragile in this operating environment. Soft-skin storage (SMFTs and onion skins) did not always hold up to the environmental conditions. For example, one FOB lost its sole bulk water source when a helicopter landed in the FOB and kicked up a rock, which punched a hole in the SMFT.

The partial solution to storage and distribution lay in buying hard-sided barrel-shaped containers (approximately 450 gallons each), mounting them on a palletized load system (PLS) flatrack, and equipping them with hoses. These "camel racks" enabled the FSBs to distribute various amounts of water and have reliable storage for bulk water.

Lessons Learned

  • TWDS was not a reliable option, as it was subject to frequent sabotage.
  • Because of the risk associated with using bags for potable and non-potable water, units are forced to rely solely on potable water for all bulk water requirements.
  • Hard-sided barrel-shaped containers (approximately 450 gallons each) mounted on a PLS flatrack and equipped with hoses enable forward support battalions (FSBs) to distribute various amounts of water and have reliable storage for bulk water.
  • 5K SMFTs can only fit on an M872 trailer, which none of the FSBs has. Only 3K SMFTs will fit on an 871 trailer; however, 3K SMFTs are in extremely short supply. The CSG managed to cut and re-bind 5K SMFTs and make them into 3K SMFTs.
  • Water waste occured when using a 5K SMFT to fill a 3K bag. Since there is no way to staunch the flow from a 5K bag, 2K of water would end up on the ground.
  • Much of the Army's water storage systems are unsuited for long-term use and become fragile in an arid desert operating environment. Soft-skin storage (SMFTs and onion skins) did not always hold up to the environmental conditions.
  • It is extremely difficult for the CSG to coordinate, obtain, and maintain water assets and personnel in theater for the BCT.
  • SMFTs (3K and 5K) have limited use. Once water off-load is initiated, for safety reasons, the truck cannot move until the bag is totally empty. Many containers hold less than the 3K or 5K. If 5K or 10K bags are unavailable, the SMFT ends up being a storage bag instead of being utilized to transport water.
  • Personnel and assets must be added to the FSB MTOE to support water distribution for the BCT.

DOTMLPF Implications

Materiel: Recommend the FSB have, at a minimum, four 5K-water tankers and eight personnel to support the brigade for potable water or provide each battalion with two heavy expanded mobility tactical truck (HEMMT) tankers that are modified to be utilized for water distribution. Also recommend each battalion within the BCT be provided two 10K water bags for holding capacity.

Material and Organization: Purchase hard-sided barrel-shaped containers (approx 450 gallons each), mount them on a PLS flatrack, and equip them with hoses. These "camel racks" will enable the FSBs to distribute various amounts of water and have reliable storage for bulk water.


The 'Camel Rack' Non-Standard Water Delivery System.
The "Camel Rack" Non-Standard Water Delivery System.

Table of Supporting Observations


Observation Title CALLCOMS
File Number
Water Operations from the DISCOM Perspective 10000-01288

Table of Contents
Chapter 4: Combat Service Support
Chapter 4-Topic A-Subtopic 2: End of Fiscal Year Mass Cancellations in OIF




NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list