U.S. drills deep – for water

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The wind blows hot and harsh across Forward Operating Base Sharana, pushing a wall of dust in front of it. Flags whip in protest to the treatment, and soldiers across the base squint behind their eye protection and pull caps down lower as dust devils spawn to brief, chaotic life around them.

It’s hot and dry, and rain seems a distant memory to most, but to Air Force Master Sgt. Rick Grambo of the 1st Expeditionary RED HORSE Group’s well-drilling detachment and his team, Sharana seems like a veritable oasis.

RED HORSE stands for Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers.

After 30 days of work, the team had tapped into a significant reserve of water deep beneath the forward operating base. “We knew we’d hit water,” Grambo said, “but it wasn’t until last week or so that we knew how much.”

The team is pumping out about 115 gallons of water per minute, said Tech. Sgt. Nate Laidlaw, a member of the drilling team. “That’s around 165,600 gallons a day,” Grambo explained with a smile.

Laidlaw said that, with careful management of the aquifer that resides below the base, the water the well produces could last for a long time. “The well itself is good for 15 years,” Grambo said. “After that, it will need some maintenance and cleaning, but that’s all.”

Gazing up at the rugged pipe and latticework of the drilling rig, Grambo seemed less concerned with the impressive volume of water that the well could produce than he was with the fact that the giant machine works at all.

“About this time a year ago, this rig was in an accident as they tried to transport it from Pakistan,” he said. “It was demolished — totaled. The manufacturer claimed it would take [more than] $140,000 to repair it.”

It ended up costing a fair bit less to repair the drilling system. Members of the RED HORSE team responsible for the rig fabricated their own parts and managed to rebuild the machine by hand at almost no cost to the military.

For Sharana residents, the water in this new well represents a significant opportunity.

“It’s our first step to being self-sufficient and producing our own water,” said Army Brig. Gen. Paul E. Crandall, Combined Task Force Castle commander. “This is a significant accomplishment for the RED HORSE team, and it benefits everyone that lives and works on FOB Sharana.”

Crandall said the new source of water provides benefits that include greater security and operational flexibility for all coalition forces who work on Sharana.

Updated 3:46 pm, October 19, 2011
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