FORWARD OPERATING BASE WHITEHOUSE, Afghanistan --
After a 12-hour foot patrol in the baking heat of the Afghan desert, a shower to wash away the grime and the grit could be the one oasis the Marines and sailors here look forward to upon completing their arduous task.
When Marines from Support Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) first arrived at Forward Operating Base Whitehouse, the oasis was only a mirage.
Within a few weeks, a team of three Marines turned a forgotten luxury into a reality and organized the construction of shower and laundry facilities for service members at the base.
“When we got here there was nothing,” said Cpl. Tammy La Pierre, the water point noncommissioned officer-in-charge at FOB Whitehouse. “It was basically for the morale of the Marines here with [1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment] to provide laundry and showers.”
Nicknamed “Water Dog,” La Pierre was the only water purification specialist at the FOB and had a big mission to fulfill. To help with the task, two Marines from Support Co. joined the “Water Dog” team and received on-the-job training.
Lance Cpl. Bobby Branch, an electrician, used his skills to provide power to the structures after they were built.
“To get the showers up and running, I ran wires from the generator to the power distributor,” said Branch.
The final member of the team, Lance Cpl. Koby Jensen, helped set up the lights for the facilities and the generator. Jensen, a basic electrical equipment engineer systems technician with 9th ESB, also learned the job of a water purification specialist.
With the facilities built, the generator in place and the tactical water purification system prepared, the last item left to get was the water. A few short miles from the FOB stretches the vast Helmand River.
“I do river runs and collect water from the river using a 125 Pump and Dolphin Strainer,” said Jensen, 21, a native of Vernal, Utah.
Jensen often joins Motor Transport Marines with 1st Bn., 8th Marines on some of their convoys to visit the river and pump 15 to 20 thousand gallons of water to bring back to FOB Whitehouse. A tactical water purification system is used to purify the water pulled from the Helmand River.
“The system uses reverse osmosis to purify the water,” said Jensen. “I can purify about 1,000 gallons of water per hour.”
Using a series of pumps, the water goes through the purification process and ends up in a large bladder behind the facilities. From there, the Marines can use the potable water for the chow hall, the washing machines and the 12-stall shower tent.
“These Marines out here work hard going out on patrols every day,” said La Pierre, 20, a Death Valley, Calif., native. “They are so thankful to be able to come in every day and get their laundry done.”
Though the water point team is a small group and isolated from their parent battalion, Branch said being separated has helped them grow as Marines.
“I like being at the FOB because it gives us more responsibility,” said Branch. “It’s also nice being on our own and having the luxury to run our own show.”
The 3-member team from 9th ESB will continue to support Marines and sailors at FOB Whitehouse for the duration of their deployment.
“Whether it’s day or night, there is always one of us here to help out anyone who needs the showers and laundry,” said La Pierre. “We’re here to help every Marine.”