Colombian Military Train at PWD
Colombian military personnel toured an aircraft carrier in Norfolk during their time off from classes at the Petroleum and Water Department.

Marine instructors at the Petroleum and Water Department are helping their Colombian counterparts to fight drug lords and guerilla forces. Nine Colombian military personnel visited the department in May for training in the operation of tactical fuel systems.

Two instructors translated into Spanish about six weeks worth of materials on fuel systems and condensed it to three weeks, said Marine Chief Warrant Officer 5 Oliver Ezell, Marine Corps Petroleum Training Department director.

“The Colombian government contacted our headquarters in Quantico and asked for assistance in petroleum training,” Ezell said. “They wanted to learn how to conduct maintenance (on fuel systems) and fuel surveillance.”

Colombian Seaman 2nd Class Luis Solorzano said that an efficient use of their fuel systems will affect the speed and success of their tactical operations.

“We need to improve and modernize some of our equipment and fuel operations in high-risk zones of our country (Colombia),” Solorzano said.

Marine Staff Sgt. Mariano Castro, PWD instructor, said it took him about three weeks to prepare the materials in Spanish. That included working some nights on his own time.

“It was exhausting, but the project was important,” Castro said. “Their (the Colombians) job is to stop the drug cartels.”

Gunnery Sgt. Erick Lee, PWD instructor, also translated and assisted with some of the blocks of instruction.

For the most part, the Spanish used by Castro and Lee was understood by their Colombian students but some of the technical terms were left in English and explained in Spanish. Words like glycol and diethylene, or acronyms like FSII (otherwise known as Fuel System Icing Inhibitor) were purposely left untranslated.

“I left them that way because if they use this (American) equipment in Colombia, they will have to use the same type of additive and they need to be able to identify it in English,” Lee said.

But the Colombian students’ visit was more than just blocks instruction and training on fuel systems, it was also a cultural experience, even for the instructors.

“We took them to Washington, D.C., and they were surprised to see how we have monuments for everything,” said Marine Gunnery Sgt. Julio Dominguez, PWD instructor.

“We also took them to Norfolk and got them on the USS Enterprise. Some of the Colombians were navy personnel, and they were excited about seeing our ships and how they’re marked just like the ones in Colombia.”

Dominguez was responsible for the administrative aspects of hosting the South American military and for showing them America’s way of life, which included going out on a run.

“They kept up with us but then they said, ‘You guys are slow,’” he said.

Dominguez said he thinks the Colombians were in good shape because they are accustomed to patrolling mountains in the jungle on foot, and the country is at a greater altitude than Virginia. Fort Lee is about 100 feet above sea level, Bogotá is 8,600 feet above sea level.