The purpose of their exercise was two-fold; practice their utility supply capabilities, and familiarize their Marines with the flexibility required to operate in a forward-deployed environment.
"We train to be able to support the I Marine Expeditionary Force in anything utilities related; power production and distribution, water production and distribution as well as heating, ventilation and air conditioning operations," explained platoon commander Chief Warrant Officer 3 Kirth Ramnath. "We have to be able to meet the battalion's mission essential tasks, which for us is to be able to produce 584,000 gallons of water per day to support the MLG."
Not every location to which the Marine Corps deploys will have safe drinking water and reliable power to sustain forces in the area. This is where utilities Marines come in. Using their purification methods and storage capabilities, they can provide clean water either on site or from a location further away.
Using several taps drilled 30 feet below sea level, the Marines pumped water into four tactical water purification systems which led a quarter of a mile up the beach to their camp to be used for drinking, hygiene and other purposes.
The purification systems pull water from a source and send it through several filters and chemical mixtures to dispose of any sediment and bacteria within. Even salt water can quickly be turned into safe drinking water.
This exercise was a first in some ways for many of the Marines.
"We're practicing the fundamentals of how we're going to tap into the ocean source to make potable water," said Ramnath, a native of Miami. "It's a learning experience because most of the young Marines here have never gone into the ocean, pulled water and then purified it."
Even after getting the water out of the tumultuous ocean, the salty water continues to make things more trying for the Marines and their purification systems, explained Cpl. Michael George, a water support technician in the platoon.
"This is different for us because we're usually purifying fresh water, not ocean water," said George. "There's so much salt and other particles in the water so it makes the TWPS work harder and it shows us what can and will go wrong with the equipment. "
In the long run, George says he has come to appreciate the ocean's determination to make things difficult and this added factor has benefitted the platoon greatly.
"I've been teaching the younger Marines how to properly work the gear, how to fix things when something breaks and how to think outside the box," explained George. "Sometimes we need something that we just don't have, but we have to be able to make things work until we can get that piece of gear."
Ramnath said this exercise was exactly what they were looking for to prepare his Marines and increase the platoon's readiness.
"We don't get to do this kind of training that often," said Ramnath. "So this is an opportunity to show our Marines what they should expect when we have to go somewhere to do this for real and how we have to perform to complete our goal in supporting the MEF."
Ramanth said he was very impressed at the platoon's ability to adapt and make this exercise a success, but they will face a real test later this year when they conduct a similar exercise five miles inland.