DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
XVIII AIRBORNE CORPS
FORT BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA
US ARMY CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY
WASHINGTON, D. C.
OPERATIONS DESERT SHIELD AND DESERT STORM
Oral History Interview
DSIT AE 052
419th Quartermaster Battalion
LTC Robert M. Sears (Commander)
MAJ Orvin S. Robertson, Jr. (Executive Officer)
Interview Conducted 4 February 1991 at Logistical Base CHARLIE, Northern Province, Saudi Arabia
Interviewer: MAJ Robert B. Honec, III, and SSG LaDona S. Kirkland (116th Military History Detachment)
OPERATIONS DESERT SHIELD AND DESERT STORM
7 August 1990 - 15 May 1991
Oral History Interview DSIT AE 052
SSG KIRKLAND: I'm here with MAJ Robert B. Honec also of the 116th Military History Detachment. The date is 4 February 1991 and this is an interview associated with DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM. I'm talking with members of the 419th Quartermaster Battalion out of California--is that correct, sir? Okay. Sir, may I have your full name, your rank, your serial number, and your duty position--if I may?
LTC SEARS: I'm LTC Robert M. Sears, the Battalion Commander of the 419th. My Social Security number is ***-**-****.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. And, sir, yourself?
MAJ ROBERTSON: MAJ Orvin S. Robertson, Jr. I am the battalion Executive Officer, 419th Quartermaster Battalion.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, sir, and your serial number?
MAJ ROBERTSON: ***-**-****.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, great. You're out of California, that's correct, sir?
LTC SEARS: Yes, it is.
SSG KIRKLAND: And what part of California are you from?
LTC SEARS: The battalion headquarters is Van Nuys.
MAJ ROBERTSON: Right.
SSG KIRKLAND: Van Nuys, California, okay.
MAJ ROBERTSON: Which is outside of Los Angeles.
SSG KIRKLAND: All right. Sir, when were you notified that you were coming to Saudi Arabia?
MAJ ROBERTSON: The battalion was activated on 20 September  and we were mobilized at Fort Ord, California, for possible deployment to Saudi Arabia.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, sir, sir, how large is the unit?
LTC SEARS: Originally, it's ... we came over here with a strength of just a little bit over 500 with the attachments. And then since that time we've been given additional attachments. And right now we're over 620--and that includes a graves registration company out of Fort Lewis, [Washington].
SSG KIRKLAND: They are associated ... they fall under you?
LTC SEARS: That's correct.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, great. How much equipment would you say that you have?
LTC SEARS: If you measured it in truck loads of equipment, I think we counted one time somewhere around 170 40-foot truck loads of equipment.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, what type of things does this equipment do? What is your mission here? [That] is basically what I'm trying to say.
MAJ ROBERTSON: The mission of the 419th Quartermaster Battalion is to purify, store, distribute and issue potable water and to support combat troops and the ground troops in the area of operation.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, sir, is the only unit of its kind that's here, or are there many other units?
MAJ ROBERTSON: I think there are currently three or four other quartermaster battalion (water supply) battalions in theater.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, now ...
LTC SEARS: There's one per corps and then there is one that supports echelons above corps. So there are a total of three in the area of operations right now.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, sir, do you fall under XVIII Airborne Corps?
LTC SEARS: That's right.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, so do you only supply water for XVIII Airborne Corps?
LTC SEARS: Well basically we provide support on an area basis. Our primary mission is for the XVIII Airborne Corps.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay.
LTC SEARS: But other troops and units that are in our geographic area can also get water from us. So it's an area mission as well as a relationship with the Corps.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, and what is the radius that you would say you would cover for transporting your water?
LTC SEARS: We'll ... basically we'll haul water anywhere up to 80 to 100 miles from here in either direction. And that's a ... the limitation is just simply time rather than distance. How much time do we have available to get to where we're going to drop off the water?
SSG KIRKLAND: And, sir, were you originally in Dhahran--set up there or did you come straight to this location?
LTC SEARS: Originally the battalion came into the Dhahran area and set up several sites to support the troops both around Dhahran and then out further to the west. As the troops started moving west early on. So we've had ... let me see, we had two locations, I guess, around Dhahran and then we set up two more locations out in support of the 24th [Infantry] Division and the 1st Cav[alry Division] and there. And since then, of course, we displaced out at this point.
SSG KIRKLAND: Sir, you said that the people started moving west. So your whole unit did not move at the same time, is that right? When did you start ...
LTC SEARS: That's correct.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Sir, when did some of the unit members start moving out this way?
LTC SEARS: Well, since arrival in country the first unit that moved out was ... we moved part of a company--the 316th--out along MSR [Main Supply Route] MERCEDES. They moved in late November.
MAJ ROBERTSON: That's right.
LTC SEARS: And then the remainder of that company moved out to MERCEDES around the beginning of the second week of December. We then moved our advance party up to KKMC [King Khalid Military City] the beginning of January.
MAJ ROBERTSON: The 12th.
LTC SEARS: The 12th of January. And then we moved from KKMC to Log[istical] Base CHARLIE. We moved up here the morning of the 17th. And our first convoy left about three hours after the war began. So we were here before it got dark on the 17th and we started producing water the next day. So we have been here since the very beginning when the war started.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, I had heard that you trained on equipment that you had never seen before at Half Moon Bay, is that correct?
LTC SEARS: That is correct.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, sir, what was involved in that process?
MAJ ROBERTSON: I wasn't in country at the time but I understand that it consisted of a two week training program that established to train the National Guard and Reserve water purification detachments that we have on the 150K1 ROWPU which is what we operate here with. And that ROWPU stands for reverse osmosis water purification unit. These reserve units typically had trained and had equipment known as ERLATORs. They are used ... basically used for brackish-type water, not sea water. Whereas the reverse osmosis water purification unit can be used both with brackish water as well as with salt water.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Sir, where did this equipment come from? Who provided this?
LTC SEARS: The equipment is part of the Army's program for prepositioned stocks. These ROWPUs were purchased 10 years ago as a contingency item with the anticipation of providing support in an area of operation like this. Under normal conditions we ... in other than a desert or an arid climate you don't have the requirement for this large of a ROWPU set-up.
The divisions have ROWPUs that are 600 gallons-per-hour. Much smaller trailer-mounted set ups. These larger 150K ROWPUs were designed to provide large volumes of water in support of a more-than-one-division corps. Just like we're doing now. But there were never units identified in the Active Component to operate them. So the equipment was purchased and they were put into pre-configured sets and put into different locations around the world for use in a contingency just like this one, okay?
When this battalion was activated the water purification detachments as well as the water purification companies had to be trained in operations of these. And that was done in a placed called Half Moon Bay which is outside of Dhahran. The Quartermaster School,2 along with some civilians out of AMC [Army Materiel Command], came over to conduct that training. And essentially what they did is they set up two ROWPUs down there (right on the beach), and then as the folks came into theater they'd rotate them through those machines and hit with an orientation on how ... tell them how the machine worked and give them a little hands-on experience. It was not an easy thing to do for anyone is to get ... given a crash course in something and then sent off on your own to go ahead and make it work, and ... . But so far, so good. It's worked out pretty well.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay.
LTC SEARS: The ... these systems are skid-mounted which meant that you can't pull them on a trailer. You have to commit other assets to move them around. And so we have had to have ... be a little creative in figuring out a way to make these mobile in order to move them from site to site. And I think that we're learning a lot about how to deal with those as we go. We've had to make some adjustments and we've had to experiment in how to set them up and how to run the hoses and just how to park the pieces together so that we can run a most efficient operation.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, so when did you become fully operational? Everybody knew how to use the equipment.
MAJ ROBERTSON: Our first operational site was October 29th. We got in-country ... the battalion headquarters got in-country on October 21st and moved out to our first site October 29th. And we already had a detachment in the area and they became operational immediately. And we started producing water at that time.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, sir, was that in Dhahran?
MAJ ROBERTSON: It was north of Dhahran.
LTC SEARS: Just outside the ...
MAJ ROBERTSON: King Fahd International ...
LTC SEARS: King Fahd International ...
MAJ ROBERTSON: ... Airport.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, great.
LTC SEARS: I think that it's important, though, to recognize that the 419th like all of the [Army] Reserve and [National] Guard battalion HHDs [Headquarters and Headquarters Detachments] don't have units under their command and control on habitual relationships. This HHD has the organization that it has under it right now--which is the 79th Quartermaster Company is out of Ohio; the 316th [Quartermaster Company] is out of San Diego. These are the two water purification companies. The detachments that we have come from all over the United States. And for the most of the part none of the detachments have worked with the companies and none of the companies have worked with the battalion until we got put together here in theater.
Of course, it's ... that's an additional challenge, in when you take a battalion staff and put them as a command and control cell for a battalion that has just simply been put together. We've got organizations from, well, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Puerto Rico, North Dakota, Utah, California, Kansas. So it just goes all across the States. And as a result we have just a wide variety of experience. And none of them had ever seen the systems that they are working on. So it is a unique challenge.
And the same thing goes for the other two water battalions. I haven't talked with them in depth but I think that you'll find that other two water battalions are finding the same kinds of challenges. Just because we don't have an habitual relationship with the subordinate teams.
SSG KIRKLAND: Sir, what kind of challenges are you talking about? Could you elaborate on your relationships with the other units?
LTC SEARS: Just learning personalities; strong points and weak points of units; the level of training in each of those units; the differences in SOPs [standing operating procedures]; differences in methods of operation. Each of those organizations does their normal weekend drills and they go to summer camp and the do their own training. But standards are different in each organization. You know, priorities are different so we've got a whole wide variety of levels of ... what's important in one unit may not be important in another. So there's a team-building process that has to go on so that everyone starts operating on the same set of priorities. That's part of our challenge with the HHD is to get ... establish what those priorities are and then figure out where all the other folks are. And getting them all operating in the same direction.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, sir, HHD, I don't understand what that is. Could you ... ?
LTC SEARS: Sure, HHD is Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment.
SSG KIRKLAND: Uh-huh.
LTC SEARS: And a battalion will have either a headquarters and headquarters company or a headquarters and headquarters detachment, based upon the size of the organization. In our case the headquarters element is not large enough to be considered a company so it's called a detachment. And in it was the battalion staff and the support structure for that battalion staff--like a company (detachment) commander and a first sergeant and a supply [section] and an armorer and those kinds of things. And what it is is a small ... authorized about 50 (what?) 51 people. A group of soldiers that provide the command and control structure. It's the battalion headquarters for these units.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Sir, how safe do you think the equipment is? Word has it that a man's clothing got caught in the shaft of a water pump and it killed him. Do you wish to elaborate on this or ...
LTC SEARS: That accident was ... it had absolutely nothing to do with the equipment that we're dealing with. The soldier that got killed was dealing with a pump--it was the drive shaft on the engine that drives the pump.
MAJ ROBERTSON: He won't do it again, right?
LTC SEARS: Well, no, I think they will do it. This is a fairly good reporter.
LTC SEARS: And in order to pull the water to the surface it requires an engine that drives--with a drive shaft that turns the pump. The soldier that was killed was operating that type of an engine and the drive shaft was an open, exposed drive shaft. And the turning motion of that drive shaft pulled his clothing into it and that ... it had nothing to do with the military equipment.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, great. Sir, do you get all your water from wells here in Saudi Arabia or is it transported from other locations?
LTC SEARS: No, our business--well, the source of water is really--there are three sources. One is bottled water which is actually a class of supply and is treated much like MREs [Meals, Ready-to-Eat] or T[ray]-rations or food. It's transported on trucks in cases and it's issued in that manner. That was one of the early sources of water that we used during DESERT SHIELD for almost everything. I think every picture you'll see of a soldier in Saudi Arabia has his plastic bottle of water there. And that's a big source of water for drinking. Two other sources of water are the desalinization plants and other commercial facilities that are in Saudi that we have used as a source for bulk water. Each of those is tested by the medics and once they pass that they are used. Several places include the desalinization plant that is up just south of Kuwait. The one that's very close to Kafji is a source. Most of the larger cities have large distillation or desalinization plants. And the third source is commercial sources.
We provide, oh, I guess, over 300,000 or 400,000 gallons of water. An awful lot of it is used for cooking, for showers, bathing. Bulk water is ... we've found is primarily used more for really health and comfort more than for drinking. But certainly it's probably the safest water to drink in terms of the level that we keep bacteria down to. We chlorinate the water and continually test it, so it's certainly safe. But the convenience of the plastic water bottles, I think, are going to be a hallmark. What we come away with from Saudi Arabia is the favorite type of drinking water in terms of the plastic bottles.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, sir, who gets priority in the water that you make potable?
LTC SEARS: That's hard to say. We don't make the priorities for distribution. The Corps Material Management Center decides who it is that is going to get the water and in what proportion. Once they make that decision then we simply distribute it based on their priority of issue. I would say that, generally speaking, the divisions have the first priority for getting water in support which makes sense. And from what I've seen the vast majority of what we issue is to the divisions. And in priority of support, the decision-making processes that oversees is the key towards making sure that the division has what they need first.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Sir, how do you transport the water from this location to the various locations?
MAJ ROBERTSON: There are two ways to transport water. One is with a semi trailer-mounted fabric tank, which is a 5,000 gallon tank that is installed on the flatbed of a portable trailer. We, in this battalion, we have a total of, I think, 41 of these type tanks. And currently we have 16 mounted. Roughly half of them right now are mounted on portable trailers. So when we get a mission to deliver 20,000 gallons of water we have four of these trailers pull up to our site here, fill up and then take and deliver that water.
The other method for us to distribute water is we have a quartermaster detachment known as TWDS detachments, Tactical Water Distribution System (which is a six-inch fabric hose line that we can run up to 10 miles per detachment or up to 20 miles with a water purification company). And we'll lay this TWDS line from our source--or rather from our bag farm--to a site. For instance, right now we have five points: to a hospital (medical) unit's site which is right adjacent to us; plus one site to an S&S [Supply and Services] company that's doing laundry and bath services. So those are the two ways that we can distribute water to them.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, great. Sir, how did you get the equipment from Dhahran to this present location? Was it convoy or air?
LTC SEARS: It was a convoy. Convoy. We had ... it took ... we had the better part of two weeks and we're still bringing things up. But we'd put them on 40-foot trucks and we would convoy them. A little at a time based on priority as to what we needed. As I said, with as many truck loads of equipment that we had, it's not something that we could move easily. And that's probably one of the disadvantages. One of the disadvantages is the amount of transportation required to be able to move everything.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Sir, how did you get your equipment from the States to the Saudi Arabia? Was it ship or air or both?
MAJ ROBERTSON: Mainly ship. We had some units ... like this particular headquarters has only eight vehicles. So the eight vehicles and the 50-plus people that we had to come over were put on a C-5B [Galaxy] and we flew over and then we landed at Dhahran. But normally most of the equipment for our units--our detachments--came over on ship.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Sir, do you find that your missions here at your present location is ... differs a little bit from your location in Dhahran in any way?
LTC SEARS: In Dhahran we were doing two different things. One, we were operating a fixed facility at one point which was at the airfield, at King Fahd. And then we had a bag farm there which is just like the one here. But generally the things that we were doing there are the same things that we're doing here. We're transporting water using the 'Smithties' and producing water and distributing it from a bag farm in both locations. So we're really doing the same thing. Here we've been able to set up TWDS line and that's the only difference. We haven't had a need to run a TWDS line up till now. So we've got some of those detachments working now.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Sir, this ...
MAJ HONEC: This is MAJ Honec. Sir, is the quality of water different here than it was in Dhahran? That you had worked with, that you were drawing from?
LTC SEARS: Well actually the water here is probably a little bit higher quality from what I've seen. The total dissolved salts is less than what we saw closer the coast. But in both places the overall quality of water has been good. So the further in-land, less of a salt content, which is what you would expect. But in both places the water has been good.
SSG KIRKLAND: And, sir, what type of bacteria and foreign particles are you trying to get out of the water to make it potable in this area?
LTC SEARS: Well, generally speaking, the ROWPU has the ability to pull most impurities out of the water. You talk about the technical side of that, I'm not sure that I can.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay.
LTC SEARS: What we do is, we separate the water and get the salts and the other heavier elements out. And then we chlorinate the water to kill anything that may be growing in it like bacteria or any other organisms that might make the water bad. So we really don't strain out, if you will, the organic side of it. What we do is, we separate the water and get the ... send the salt water back out and keep the fresh water; and then chlorinate it to, in effect, make it safe to drink.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, good. Sir, what would you call this present location that you're in? Is there a city name here?
LTC SEARS: This is Log Base CHARLIE.
SSG KIRKLAND: Log Base CHARLIE?
LTC SEARS: And we're really not close to any town. There's a little village called Al Keshabi which is about eight clicks [kilometers] east of us along MSR DODGE.3 But we're about 50 clicks east of the city of Rafha, so that's about as close as I can get for you.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, great. Okay, sir, do you plan to move forward or are you staying in this location for the duration? If you can say?
LTC SEARS: Well, I'm not sure that I can tell you that right now.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, sir, then we'll move on. How would water purification systems function during an NBC [Nuclear, Biological or Chemical] attack? Would you still be able to do your mission?
LTC SEARS: Everything that we do is on an closed system. Even from the well head itself we have a closed system of hose line that attaches to that. And at no point in that system is there an opportunity for any foreign material to get into the water. The water flows through the ROWPU and it goes into the bags. The bags are rubberized and provides probably as much protection as one could expect. I don't know that I would have the folks out there running the system during an NBC attack. What we would probably do is attempt to cover as much with plastic just as a precaution. I don't think that there would be any problem with it but the permanent matter of safety ... what we would probably do is cover the things with plastic sheeting just to preclude any chance of contamination.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, gentlemen, that's all the questions that I have. Is there anything that you would like to add that I have not covered?
LTC SEARS: Well, I think it's important that ... to note that the kind of operation that we're running here is something that ... for years the Quartermaster Corps has been talking about the challenges of having to provide water in an arid climate. The vast majority of our war plans call for going to places where there are lots of water. All of these systems are designed which take a feed hose and throw it into a lake or into a stream. On a body of water you float it to the surface and keep it out of the mud and you just pull water. Well, there are no lakes or streams or rivers or anything like that. What we are tied to is wells. The toughest challenge that we have is identifying a source of water. Almost everything that we do in our planning in this war is based upon pushing supplies from the rear base, forward. And then pushing them forward once again to a little bit further forward. What we were looking in the area of water is that we're not pushing that forward. We're depending upon the ability to find water and pull it out of the ground where you can provide that for the soldiers. The ... so far we have been successful in finding those wells and being able to produce water on-site. The ROWPU is going to be the ...
[END OF SIDE ONE]
LTC SEARS: ... geological types of surveys done on the likelihood of water in different places. But down the line we would take that information and then you have to go out and start looking. That's the way that this drill has been. People went out looking around. And then you have to figure out if you can get the engines started, does the pump still work, you know, is it going to pull up oil or is it going to pull up water, or what's happening? So there is a certain amount of risk in trying to figure out where you are going to set up. And in this case we've done very well. We had identified the wells but we've never been given the opportunity to start it up or to run either of these until on the 17th when we got here. So we had to figure out how to hot-wire the engine to get it started.
MAJ HONEC: So the equipment was in place? The basics were in ...
LTC SEARS: Right. Saudis ... the well heads ... like the in-ground pump and the engine had an awful lot of these things is there. It's just a matter of having to figure out how to start the engine and hope it works. In other sites the wells are artisan so that there is a wellhead there and the water is coming up to the surface. So then all you need to do is tap onto it and pull it right out.
MAJ HONEC: These ones are underground rivers or are they ... ?
LTC SEARS: I don't know if they are. I believe that they do require pumps to bring it to the surface. So it's not an artisan at all. From the volume we're getting I would to say that it is on a fairly large output, because we've been pulling probably 600 gallons a minute for three weeks now with no ...
MAJ HONEC: No let-up. It's good. It has a good flow on it but you have to pull it?
LTC SEARS: That's right.
MAJ HONEC: Okay, sir.
LTC SEARS: That's a lot of water.
SSG KIRKLAND: And transporting 2,000 to 3,000 gallons a day?
LTC SEARS: Hundred thousand.
SSG KIRKLAND: Hundred thousand gallons a day?
LTC SEARS: Yeah. We probably seeing ... we're doing that. We transported ... we're transporting about 80 to 100,000 gallons and we're producing about ... I guess that we're producing about 240 or 250,000 gallons. Then we are distributing on-site. You know, other people are bringing their water buffalos in and their tankers in and we distribute the rest of it to their staff. And then they take it back themselves. So we distribute some and they take some.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, there was one thing that I wanted to ask you about line hauling. What is that process?
LTC SEARS: Okay.
SSG KIRKLAND: You had mentioned that.
LTC SEARS: That's using the semi-trailer mounted tanks. It just simply means that you fill up a 5,000 gallon tank and then you drive it from here to the destination point, which is line haul just as you would any type of the product. If you don't have a source of water and you need to get a lot of water on the ground, you have to line haul from your source of water to the new location. And then store it in bags. So essentially you fill the bag farm up like we have here. But instead of being able to pull it out of the ground you have to bring it in with trucks and dump it into the bags.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay.
LTC SEARS: And then transport it on.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, sir, is there anything else that you would like to add that I did not cover?
MAJ HONEC: The platforms indicated some civilian skills which were ... like the carpenter built the stairs to the ROWPU unit. We were by [there]. A lot of innovation. Apparently the platforms to your ...
LTC SEARS: Yeah. One of the things that ... those ROWPUs are mounted on 40-foot trailers. And like I said, when they came off the ship they all came in big wooden boxes and they are skid-mounted. What we done is figured out the most beneficial way to mount those on trailers and chained them down so that they are permanently attached there, if you will, for us. And then we figured out what's the best way to park those trailers so that you can get from one trailer to the other. And then we take guys out of--who are carpenters and get the equipment operators and guys who had experience in plumbing and all those other trades.
And that's the kind of thing that we rely on to figure out how to hot-wire the engines, how to create a well adaptor because you don't get a well adaptor to figure out how to hook onto that well. You just have to figure ... to take a look at the well and then figure out what kind of pipe you need. And maybe you have to weld off a piece or cut the pipe and weld something else on there. So you've got to be creative. All the instructions are not in the box.
And so each well is a little bit different. In this well up here ... had a long standpipe that came out. What they had to do was cut that off and put an adaptor on to bolt it down so that we could put the military hose line on to the well head. At the one at the other end down where the second one ... we had an underground pipe. So we had to cut the output side of the well and then turn off the elbow and once again put an adaptor on there so we could figure out ... make it fit with our coupling.
Those are not skills that the Army taught people. It's things that they brought to the job with them from other places. And I think that's the kind of thing, I think, that we're finding every day that people have that is beneficial to getting us up in operation. Our mission was to arrive at Log Base CHARLIE on the first day of the war and have 800,000 gallons of water on the ground by the end of January. Well we did that and we had the water on the ground by about the 24th or the 25th of January, so we did very well. At the same time met the demands of the soldiers coming in. So that goes to the initiative and creativity on the part of the troops.
MAJ HONEC: The units making up your battalion here, are they all Army Reserve or are they a mixture of Guard and Army Reserve?
MAJ ROBERTSON: The two water companies and all of the water detachments are Reserve and Guard. We've got a medium truck company which was an active Army truck company out of Fort Devens, [Massachusetts]--and that's the company whose trucks are hauling the water for us. Then the headquarters is a Reserve unit out of California.
LTC SEARS: Yeah.
MAJ HONEC: Graves registration--why graves registration with a water unit? Is there a catch?
LTC SEARS: There are a couple of reasons. The 54th Quartermaster Company (which is the graves registration company) is once again ... it's a quartermaster unit, so this is a quartermaster battalion. And the understanding of those operations is part of the Quartermaster branch so that's one reason.
Locations have a lot to do with it.
The graves registration company is ... there is one company to support the Corps. And much like we're the battalion providing the Corps water, the graves registration company is the company providing that service for the Corps.
And it just sort of fit into the structure. The other battalions in the [support] group that we're in are primarily transportation, ordinance; and it just made sense to put that quartermaster unit under us.
Of course the graves registration is another area that Fort Lee and the Quartermaster Corps is going to be looking at quite hard just to see how they are doing. Graves registration is something that went away. We had no active duty graves registration units up until about 1986. And a decision was made, because of a couple of disasters, that we needed to have grave registrations. A decision was made to create an active duty graves registration company. The result of that is the 54th Quartermaster. And that's a whole different story if you want to talk about graves registration. But they were activated to Fort Lee and in the past year and a half they have been--this is their second live-fire exercise. The 54th went to Panama with the Corps last year at Christmas. And then this year they were active ... they were brought over here in ... I believe they came over in late November. They had been restructured a bit in order to provide the collection points necessary to support each of the divisions in the theater.
The ... it's a topic that is not popular to discuss but it is something that I think we're going to find is one of those unfortunate necessities that you are going to have to be very creative in in the near future. And these guys are ... in my view I think it was a good decision to start creating the grave registration companies in the active component. I think that it gives us a good command and control headquarters to use in order to manage a very emotional issue. And we need to have folks who have got more than just a few days' experience in that.
SSG KIRKLAND: Sir, do you have any questions?
MAJ HONEC: I don't have any others, except for Half Moon Bay. The length of the time, again, the training in Half Moon on the equipment?
LTC SEARS: Okay, Half Moon Bay started out in August.
MAJ HONEC: Okay.
LTC SEARS: The 150K ROWPUs came in about the 20th of August. They were one of the first things that came off the preposition service. And the first two of those were sent to Half Moon Bay and to unpack them and get them set up and to start this shake-down to see what was going to be required. That operation, I guess, got into full swing by about the, oh, the 25th or so of August. It continued, I think, all the way through October. It seems to me it was late October [and] they were still training folks on part of the 150s. So it was a long, involved ... . As the other detachments came in. They would go down there. They would be oriented on it. And then they would be sent out.
SSG KIRKLAND: Sir, is there anything else that you would like to add?
MAJ ROBERTSON: I just wanted to say that the Army has been talking about this 'Total Force' concept for quite some time. And, of course, I think that it's well known that most of the logistical-type units are in the reserves. I think that when the Army looks back on DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM (as the battalion commander has already said) I think that they are probably going to relook at where the water purification units and the wash and supply units and of course where the water supply battalion headquarters is located. Of all of the battalion headquarters, water supply battalion headquarters are in the reserves. I think that Army is probably going to take a real hard look at that.
But, all in all, to train on the equipment that we did not have--we do not have, again, in the reserve system--and to come over and be able to participate in an operation as large as this, and to be able to do as well as we've done ... I guess that's probably attributed to the Army's judgment to come up with a Total Force concept in the first place. So I think that the Army will probably continue to have that kind of concept where they can look in very key areas like water supply/water purification and rethink whether they want to have some of those type units in the Active Component.
SSG KIRKLAND: All right. This concludes the interview between members of the 116th Military History Detachment and members of the 419th Quartermaster Battalion.
[END OF INTERVIEW]