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Pipeline Sustains Operations

By Spc. Petersi Liu, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait, Sept. 4, 2003 – Without access to millions of gallons of fuel, Operation Iraqi Freedom missions would grind to a halt. It's the job of the Army's 49th Quartermaster Group to make sure that doesn't happen.

During the operation's March offensive, the group kept the fuel flowing through its Inland Petroleum Distribution System, or IPDS -- 220 miles of pipeline that ran from Camp Virginia, Kuwait, to Iraq.

The 3rd Infantry Division's Abrams tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, armored vehicles and support fuel tankers required fuel stops to advance from Kuwait to Baghdad, said Army Master Sgt. Antonio Elopre, petroleum operations noncommissioned officer in charge of the quartermasters' command group.

The 416th Engineer Command worked with the 49th to build the pipeline, which features 20 pump stations and seven fuel-storage sites that can combine to provide 8 million gallons on-hand fuel capacity. "The engineers' contributions allowed the 49th QM Group to provide more than 90 million gallons of fuel to the battlefield, of which more 60 million gallons were pushed via the IPDS," said Capt. Dena Ridenour, a 49th battle captain.

The pipeline now stretches from Kuwait refineries to Tallil, Iraq. It powers the coalition's machines with 600 gallons of fuel per minute running through its 6-inch- diameter aluminum pipe, said Pfc. Michael Hewitt, a fuel specialist with the Army's 267th Quartermaster Company.

Hewitt, a fuel pump operator at Camp Udairi, Kuwait, said the pipe's pressure requires constant monitoring. "There are many pressure gauges to maintain a steady flow of fuel," he said. "If left unchecked, the velocity can get so high that it can burst the pipeline somewhere.

"If the fuel pipe is stopped for just five minutes," he continued, "a whole brigade might be left without fuel. That is why my job is so important -- there are many people who rely on fuel to survive."

The quartermasters' objective is to be able to send 1.3 million gallons of fuel per day into the theater for ground forces, said Capt. James Zacchino, petroleum officer of the 49th. The group consists of the 240th, 260th, 362nd and 559th quartermaster battalions and other subordinate units.

The 240th operates the pipeline terminals, Zacchino explained. The group's soldiers are trained to spot suspicious activities, and they patrol to ensure bandits don't steal fuel or sabotage the pipeline.

Zacchino said the 260th and 362nd provide petroleum to camps in Iraq that don't have direct access to the main pipeline, using 5- and 7-ton tanker trucks, respectively. The 559th provides water operations, with 29 trucks designed to carry water purification units, each of which can purify 3,000 gallons of water per hour from the Euphrates River, the captain said. He added that purified water is essential for consumption, food preparation and showers for people assigned in the theater.

The 49th has more than 750 fuel and water trucks. Its operations directly support the Army's 5th Corps and 101st and 82nd airborne divisions, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and coalition forces.

Fuel isn't used just for vehicles, Zacchino pointed out. Fuel powers the generators that provide air conditioning for tents, power for computers and telephones and the other electrical needs of forces in the theater, he said.

Plenty of fuel is available, and not a single mission has been compromised because of fuel shortage, Zacchino said.

(Spc. Petersi Liu is assigned to Coalition Forces Land Component Command in Kuwait.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Pfc. Michael Hewitt, a fuel specialist with the 267th Quartermaster Company, checks a minor leak in the 49th Quartermaster Group's Inland Petroleum Distribution System pipeline at Camp Udairi, Kuwait.  
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