Fort Pickett hosts unique fuel pipeline training

U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers assigned to the North Carolina-based 363rd Engineer Battalion, 411th Engineer Brigade, 412th Engineer Command, train on the U.S. Army Forces Command Petroleum Training Module during their two weeks of annual training July 17, 2020, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Sgt. Jeff Clements)

FORT PICKETT, Virginia — U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers assigned to the North Carolina-based 363rd Engineer Battalion, 411th Engineer Brigade, 412th Engineer Command, trained on the U.S. Forces Command Petroleum Training Module during their two weeks of annual training July 11-24, 2020, at Fort Pickett, Virginia.

Since 1989, Maneuver Training Center Fort Pickett has been the home for the FORSCOM Petroleum Training Module. This government-owned, contractor-run program provides training for Active, Reserve and National Guard units and is the only in-depth, realistic, and detailed military pipeline and terminal operations training service available to land-based forces within the Department of Defense.

“Instead of giving each quartermaster unit a training set, they made Fort Pickett the home of the training,” said Thomas O’Carroll, the FPTM program manager. “Currently today we have 12 petroleum pipeline and terminal operating units that train at Fort Pickett.”

“This mission allows us the opportunity to get collective training proficiency in two of our battalion METL (Mission Essential Tasks List), most importantly, the construction portion of our mission,” said Maj. Anny Novareyes, the 363rd’s operations and training officer. 

The engineers trained on the Inland Petroleum Distribution System, a deployable bulk fuel storage and pipeline system. It is made up of tactical petroleum terminals (fuel units and pipeline connection assemblies), pipeline pump stations, pipeline sets, and special-purpose equipment. The system is modular in design and can be tailored for specific locations and operations.

“It’s a critical mission to move bulk fuel on the battlefield,” O’Carroll said. “If we ever go to an area of operation where we need bulk fuel, the IPDS will be needed. It’s very critical the soldiers receive the training, conduct the training and move the product. This equipment will only be used in a time of war or a national disaster.”

Water is the medium used to test the pipeline when it is laid out during training and deployments. 

“The only time we use live fuel is during deployment,” O’Carroll said. 

Fort Pickett has been the home of the petroleum training module since 1989, and is the Department of Defense’s only petroleum pipeline training facility. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Sgt. Jeff Clements)

These IPDS were deployed to support U.S. and Coalition Forces in the liberation of Kuwait during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, where more than 200 miles of IPDS were laid out. More than 220 miles of pipeline and 20 pump stations were in operation in 2003 during the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. By the end of the operation, mostly in southern Iraq, more than 80 million gallons of JP-8 fuel was delivered by pipeline. This also helped to take fuel trucks off main support routes allowing other classes of supplies to move forward.

During their training at Fort Pickett, the 363rd Engineer Battalion constructed 15 miles of pipeline while providing command and control over 220 Soldiers. They also performed quality assurance and surveillance for fuels, lubricants and related products. Detachments from Field Support Command, 363rd Engineer Company; 665th Engineer Utility Detachment; 347th Quartermaster Company; 59th Quartermaster Company and the 346th Engineer Company also trained under the 363rd.

The construction phase of the pipeline is usually conducted in April, but because of restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 pipeline construction training was moved to July. 

“Given the time of year that we are conducting this mission our 68 Whiskeys (Combat Medics) are probably our most important piece to be able to protect the force, especially with COVID,” Novareyes said. “They are our most critical MOS right now.”

Months of training and planning go into the mission of the FPTM both on the side of the civilian contractors as well as the units that are conducting the training.

“Overall, it’s been a really great experience working with the FORSCOM team,” Novareyes said. “This is training that is a critical task for our engineers and it’s great to be able to work with quartermasters and active duty units. To be able to communicate with them, plan with them and assist them. Now, being here on the ground to culminate our event and complete a mission together, that’s really rewarding for the battalion.”