Photo Information

On May 15, 2006, United States Marine Corps Lance Corporal Donald T. Backer Jr.; of Third Marine Air Wing (3d MAW), Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 (MWSS-374), Engineer Company (Eng Co); shows a soldier of the 1st Iraqi Army Division the clorine balance in the water that was processed through the Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Operation Unit (ROWPOU) at Camp Habbaniyah in the al Anbar Province of Iraq. I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) is deployed in support of in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq (Multi-National Force-West) to develop the Iraqi security force, facilitate the development of official rule of law through democratic government, and continue the development of a market based economy centered on Iraqi reconstruction. (USMC Photo by Corporal Samantha L. Jones.)

Photo by Corporal Samantha L. Jones

MWSS-374 supports Iraqis in Habbaniyah

1 Aug 2006 | Lance Cpl. Brandon L. Roach

In a land where pure clean water is essential for prosperity, the Marines of Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 ensure that the people of Habbaniyah fully understand the operations of a water purification system.

With only a short time left in their deployment, the utilities platoon with MWSS-374, Marine Wing Support Group 37 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, convoy several times each week to a place just minutes outside the perimeter of Al Taqaddum to help transition water purification operations to the Iraqi people.

"We officially started our Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit training with the Iraqi contractors May 16," said Staff Sgt. Charles C. Hart, utilities platoon chief, engineer company, MWSS-374. "We are transitioning from a coalition life support contract to a self-sustaining Iraqi base with little coalition support."

After an assessment of the water production site, a concern arose about the two water purification sites, previously operated by civilians.

According to Hart, the Marines were not trained on these types of ROWPU units and they only had a short time to learn.

"We had to start an immediate turnover with the old contractors," said Hart. "We needed to get familiar with the operations of the unit and what is done daily with them before the civilian contractors left."

Once the Marines learned the operation of the units, they had to ensure everything would be managed properly by getting the Iraqi people on a work schedule.

"I needed to meet all the workers and make sure they understood that there was no more showing up when it was convenient for them," said Hart. "We organized work teams and shift managers so that there would only be one person solely responsible for the site."

After the initial transition, as with most projects of this scale, there were several problems that occurred. The main problem was that the Iraqis did not initially understand the difference between potable and non-potable water. They were using purified water for construction projects and fire trucks, which diminished the on-hand drinking water.

"Once my team of Marines got a good grasp of the operations," said Hart. "We started to see improvements in performance and production,"

With approximately two months left in their deployment, the Marines of MWSS-374 continue to support the Iraqi people, not only with the training but on a more personal level as well.

"We help them with the little things like tools and maintenance but it's the personal things we do that really impacts their lives," said Hart. "We take pictures of them for their families, answer questions about America, as well as try to instill pride in them for what they are doing."

Now spending most of their time spent spot-checking the equipment and ensuring the maintenance is being done, the Marines watch the Iraqi people prosper from the shadows.

"After the time we have spent over there, I am confident in their abilities to manage and maintain their water purification sites," Hart concluded.