Water, Water, Everywhere: CLB-31 refines water purification capabilities

19 Jan 2017 | 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit

Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, practiced water purification and distribution during Marine Expeditionary Unit Exercise at Kin Blue Training Area, Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 19, 2017.
Water purification specialists with CLB- 31 constructed a water supply point during MEUEX using two Lightweight Water Purification Systems. The LWPS is a specialized water purification system that produces up to 150 gallons of potable drinking water per hour and stores up to 3,000 gallons of water in each water bladder.
“The Lightweight Water Purification System allows us to extract and purify water from any given source, including the ocean,” said Sgt. Ronald Russell Jr., a water purification specialist with CLB-31. “The water will travel through a set of strainers before it reaches the main filters. From there, it will be pumped through further strainers and filters, and will finally go through a reverse osmosis process, which removes the ocean’s salt from the water, giving us potable drinking water that can be used anywhere.”
MEUEX provided CLB-31 with the opportunity to refine their water purification and distribution procedures while completing maintenance on crucial and sensitive equipment, according to Russell. The water purification specialists also worked with motor transport specialists to transport large amounts of clean water to various locations.
“At any given time, we’ll have two water containers on the back of a truck, which carries a total of 1800 gallons of potable water,” Russell said. “We can also carry an additional 450 gallons of water in a smaller detachable tank. This allows us to move more water faster, to areas that really need it. Clean water is needed for drinking, food preparation, sanitation and medical purposes, which is crucial in crisis scenarios.”
In 2015, CLB-31 distributed roughly 279,000 gallons of potable water purified with a LWPS and a larger Tactical Water Purification System over the course of two weeks in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, after Typhoon Soudelor damaged the island’s primary water desalination plant.
The 31st MEU is able to quickly respond to humanitarian aid and disaster relief scenarios like Typhoon Soudelor because CLB-31 provides ground logistics support beyond the organic capabilities provided by the command, ground and aviation combat elements. The battalion provides motor transport, supply, maintenance, medical support and military police, which are capabilities the other elements cannot provide organically, extending the reach of the 31st MEU significantly.
“We’re a small battalion, but we provide a huge capability,” said Maj. Randy White, the CLB-31 operations officer. “We have specialists in engineering, water purification, electric wiring, motor transport, military policing and medical support. This means whenever there is a disaster or accident, we are able to put together a tailored team with capabilities that meet the requirements for the situation. This gives us a tremendous amount of flexibility in the Pacific area of operations, which is extremely important. Not every mission is the same, be we are able to provide a team that can meet those needs.”
The battalion practices putting together their tailored teams for varied missions during MEUEX, where the logistics, ground and aviation elements are able to work together for the first time in an extended field-training scenario.
“MEUEX is our first exercise as a Marine Air-Ground Task Force for the latest deployment cycle,” White said. “As a MAGTF, this is our first real opportunity to work together in the field and practice the missions that will be expected of us. We will continue to practice these scenarios when we embark on ship, to remain prepared for any possible scenario.”
31st Marine Expeditionary Unit