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41st Fires troops practice purifying water

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Posted: Wednesday, August 24, 2011 12:00 pm

By Colleen Flaherty

Fort Hood Herald

Water may not be as exciting as bombs and bullets, but it's more important.

That's what 1st Lt. Brian Harris, fluids platoon leader for Alpha Company, 589th Brigade Support Battalion, 41st Fires Brigade, told his soldiers during a three-day water purification exercise last week at Belton Lake.

Using a tactical water purification system, 28 "water dogs" from Harris' platoon turned lake water into drinking water.

Suitable for swimming but not for drinking, the raw lake water traveled through hundreds of feet of hoses and tubes - most contained a mobile purification unit the size of a small trailer - and multiple filtration points.

"On this end," said Harris pointing to a 3,000-gallon bag of water at the end of the cycle, "it's better than bottled water and definitely better than tap water."

"We're taking water, which is one of the smallest molecules, and ripping it apart" to put it back together in an ideal form, said Staff Sgt. Paul Naccarato, the platoon's senior noncommissioned officer.

The platoon is capable of purifying water continuously and storing 15,000 gallons at a time, by adding trace amounts of chlorine. Its tactical water purification system can support a battalion-sized element and purifies everything from saltwater to wastewater, Naccarato said.

Spc. Prichard Tudong said the event brought back more pleasant memories from his deployment to Iraq, when he operated a water purification site around the clock.

With a cot and all the fresh water he could want, he said, things could have been worse.

"I've got at least 50,000 gallons of water to my name," Tudong said.

For training purposes and due to the drought, both collected waste and potable water were returned to Belton Lake.

The water exercise, which began on Aug. 15, was the first held at Fort Hood since before Sept. 11, 2001, according to information from the battalion.

The return to water purification training signals a shift in garrison focus, said Maj. Corey Woods, 589th Brigade Support Battalion.

"We focused on Iraq and Afghanistan," he said. Because water services are often contracted out in theater, "It hasn't been a training focus."

Slowing deployment cycles give units time to bolster perishable skills, Woods said. Plus, he added, water contractors only are available at "mature," established combat posts, making purification skills necessary, even in modern warfare.

Contact Colleen Flaherty at colleenf@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7559.

Follow her on Twitter at KDHfeatures.

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