Thursday, April 2, 2009

Civil Engineers Provide Humanitarian Assistance in the Marshall Islands

Earlier this week, a team of Air Force civil engineers produced their millionth gallon of purified water for the residents of Roi-Namur, part of a U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Testing base, which is located nearly 4,000 kilometers southwest of Hawaii. Read more about the mission from the U.S. Air Force’s 18th Wing Public Affairs staff

The island, which is the northern-most island in the Kwajalein Atoll, part of the Marshall Islands, was hit by tidal surge in late December that caused severe contamination in most of the water supply.

Feb. 3, the team of eight civil engineers arrived on site with five reverse osmosis systems and immediately began 24-hour operations to provide potable water for the island. Since then, they have purified enough water to sustain the residents for approximately two-and-a-half months.
The team hopes to leave the island with 2.6 million gallons of water, which can sustain the residents for three months.

Three months is enough time for natural processes to play their part in restoring the water supply to a consumable state. The rainy season is expected to begin this month, and the rain water will help dilute the chloride in the lens wells that supply the drinking water.

This is not the first time the civil engineers have been called on to provide this type of response to natural disasters. In fact, the team specifically trains to respond rapidly to restore water supplies in instances like this one. Every two years the team conducts Exercise Silver Flag at Kadena Air Base, Japan, to ensure civil engineers, as well as administrative and contracting personnel, are prepared to respond to disaster relief efforts.

The training paid off. For the Roi-Namur mission, the engineers were deployed and on the ground operating with less than two weeks notice.

The team is scheduled to depart Roi-Namur around May. In the meantime, they are working closely with the water purification plant on the island to establish a permanent solution that will help prevent future incidents of contamination to the water supply.

The expertise of this specialized unit serve to provide rapid response in any situation that jeopardizes the ability of people to obtain safe water. By working with other nations, this team helps educate others on how to provide this same response.

One of the three main pillars of U.S. Pacific Command’s (PACOM) strategy is readiness, and the Airmen of the 18th Civil Engineering Squadron demonstrated their commitment to the mission with this rapid and successful deployment. Each day throughout the PACOM area of responsibility, U.S. military personnel are training to be prepared to respond to any situation across the spectrum of operations.


MAJ Clay Morgan said...

Thank you for posting this story. The topic was relevant to the lessons in our joint engineer capabilities course. About 75 Joint Engineer Officers and NCOs recently graduated from the Joint Engineer Operations Course, at Ft Leonard Wood, MO. The course focused on preparing members for assignments in a joint engineer section of a joint task force. We learned unique engineer capabilities within each service, operational planning, and execution. These lessons were reinforced by the USPACOM mission posted above and the interaction between US Air Force, US Army, and contractor support.

Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie L. Carl said...

MAJ Morgan, I'm glad this post has helped provide relevancy to your students. We hope the information we provide here helps everyone better understand what our service members are doing globally to support stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region.

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