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David L. Bruen
Quartermaster Professional Bulletin – Spring 1994

Overview on the transition of the Water Operations mission and training from the Engineer to the Quartermaster Corps in 1981

The Petroleum and Water Department at the U.S. Army Quartermaster Center and School, Fort Lee, VA, serves as focal point for all proponent and training issues. This includes individual and unit training, distributive training, soldier Self Development Tests, and officer Military Qualification Standards. The department has four divisions: Development, Evaluation and Validation; Water Training; Basic Petroleum Laboratory; and Advanced Petroleum and Water.


The Army conducted water training under the Engineer School’s direction at Fort Belvoir, VA, and Fort Leonard Wood, MO, from the World War II era until 1981 when proponency transferred to the Quartermaster School. Training of enlisted personnel transferred to Fort Lee in September 1984. Instruction in the reverse osmosis water purification process was added to the curriculum in the transfer. Water storage and distribution operations were added to the curriculum in 1986.

Today, new facilities at the Appomattox River site and Bailey’s Creek make the water training both realistic and ecologically acceptable. The department’s facilities also include classrooms, laboratories and field training sites. These facilities enhance the department’s curriculum in petroleum and water logistics management; petroleum and water testing; and water purification, storage and distribution.

Because water supply is a combat multiplier as well as the center of gravity in arid environments, the Quartermaster Corps’ mission is the timely and adequate supply of this critical battlefield commodity. Soldiers require water for personal consumption, sanitation, cooking, maintenance, equipment operation, decontamination, and a host of other purposes. In temperate, tropic and arctic environments, fresh surface and subsurface water sources are sufficient. With adequate water supply, water operations become a requirement involving a minimum of management except in emergencies.

In desert environments, the timely water support takes on significant new dimensions. Soldiers must increase individual water consumption. Critical and scarce water sources in arid regions require strict management controls. Commanders must establish priorities, set up allocation systems, and monitor water consumption requirements.

Each military service provides its own water resource support. However, water resource support beyond a service’s capability in a joint operation is provided by the Army or another service, as appropriate.

Critical Links

The critical link in water supply operations is the internal unit distribution within the consuming units. If the soldier does not have adequate water, his health, combat effectiveness, and ultimately the success of the mission are jeopardized. Each company is responsible for using its organic water distribution equipment to obtain water from the approved water point and distribute water within the company. For light Infantry battalions and companies, the Quartermaster water supply unit provides unit deliveries to the battalion’s combat trains.

Major Casualties

Getting water to the soldier in the individual fighting position is the critical link in water distribution operations. If this link fails, the condition does not matter of the purification, storage, and distribution assets at brigade, division, corps, or echelons above corps. Throughout military history, the majority of war casualties have been from disease and nonbattle injury. This can be drastically reduced by ensuring that soldiers have adequate supplies of potable water. 

At the time this article was written David L Bruen, was a retired U.S. Army Noncommissioned Officer, a graduate of Saint Leo College with a bachelor’s degree in human resources. He served voluntarily on the education Committee of the Virginia Section of the American Water Works Association. He was  assigned as Training Specialist. Petroleum and Water Department. U.S. Army Quartermaster Center and School, Fort Lee, Virginia.

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