Clean water means clean win for Marines

2 Dec 2003 | Lance Cpl. John E. Lawson Jr.

Water is a precious commodity. Without it, we wouldn't survive. But, according to NASA's "Classroom of the Future" program's Web site, only 1 percent of the world's water is drinkable, and much of that water contains harmful elements that could be fatal if ingested.

But those harmful elements are the business of the Marines assigned to Utilities, Support Company, 8th Engineering Support Battalion, 2nd Force Service Support Group here. They are responsible for turning dangerous muck into clean drinking water for Marines in the field. They do this using reverse osmosis water purification units, or ROWPUs.

Recently, two teams from 8th Engineering Support Battalion participated in the 6th annual Sgt. Maj. John C. Marigliano Award of Excellence competition, formerly the Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit Regulated On-site Demonstrated Efficiency Objective, or ROWPU RODEO, at the U.S. Army Coastal Water Purification Training Center, Fort Story, Va., and U.S. Army Quartermaster Center and School, Fort Lee, Va. The competition took place in two phases.

The Marine Corps started participating in the once Army-only event in 1999, and 2003 is the first time the Marines have won. The two teams from Camp Lejeune took first and second place over-all, beating U.S. Army units from around the world.

The first-place team consisted of Cpl. Jeremy A. Benton, and Lance Corporals Mathew B. Foust, Keith Carr, and Heriberto Becerra Bravo. The second place team was Cpl. Jacob D. Busch, and Lance Corporals Peter Smith, Jimmie M. Bass, and Bakhit McBride.

"It's an honor to have won." Benton, a Titusville, Fla., native said. "The only real competition was between our two teams. We were so far ahead of the others." He added, "On every event, the Marine Corps set the standard."

The competition was divided into lanes, or categories, in which each team was tested. The lanes included a written exam, a reconnaissance operation, water storage and distribution system testing, and multiple lanes using the 600 and 3,000-gallon-per-hour ROWPUs.

Presently, the Marine Corps does not use the 3,000-gallon-per-hour ROWPU.

"It was great working on gear we don't usually get to work with. We got to show-up the Army on their own gear, but we also gained experience," said Foust, of Macedonia, Ohio.

The Marines from Camp Lejeune were presented more than 20 awards in a ceremony at Fort Lee.

The Army and WATEC have teamed up to train service members on the ROWPUs, the Tactical Water Distribution System, the Water Storage Distribution System, and organizational maintenance, said Larry Wilkinson, WATEC Inc., site administrator, United States Army Coastal Water Purification Training Center, Fort Story, Va.

This year's competition was between 14 teams; 10 U.S. Army teams from around the world, two Marine teams from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., and two teams from Camp Lejeune.

The contest itself is named for Sgt. Maj. John C. Marigliano, the first honorary sergeant major of the Army's Quartermaster Regiment and the first enlisted member to be inducted in the Quartermaster Corps Hall of Fame.

This honor is the highest water purification award the military has to offer.

"I think this water competition rates in the very top when compared to other competitions throughout the Army.  Skills attained from this type of training and competition are regarded as the very best the Army has to offer," said Sgt. 1st Class Robert J. McGhee III, water and petroleum training advisor, Army Forces Command.

"The competitive environment of the RODEO fosters confidence and esprit de corps between individuals, teams, and services. It is also a training management tool the commander can use to assess the competency and readiness of water teams," he said.

The East Orange, N.J., native added the Navy had a team sign up for the competition this year, but cancelled due to operational commitments, and the Air Force has expressed interest in competing next year.

Plans are also under way to hold next year's inter-service competition here, but nothing has been finalized, he said.

"Winning this award says a unit is combat ready in its' field of expertise and is ready to successfully provide life's most important substance to survive: potable water," McGhee said.