FORT LEE, Va. (Sept. 18, 2014) -- Retired Sgt. 1st Class Conrad Bradley, who hung up his uniform in 2002, desperately sought out one of his mentors prior to the Liquid Logistics Reunion that took place Friday and Saturday here and in Hopewell.
“I went online to search him out,” said the former petroleum supply specialist of retired Sgt. 1st Class Melvin Bray. “I called his mother and tracked him down because I wanted to see him again.”
Bradley, now a Petroleum and Water Department civilian employee, said he felt compelled to tell his former squad leader what he meant to his career.
“I wanted to thank him for making me the Soldier I was,” he said, noting he had lost his father upon arriving to his first unit and meeting Bray. “I was looking for that, and I found it in him.”
Bradley, Bray and roughly 38 others were present for the biennial event that serves to strengthen the traditions and heritage of the Army’s petroleum and water career fields while providing the opportunity for attendees to renew friendships and keep up with old ones.
Jose A. Hernandez, director of the Quartermaster School’s Petroleum and Water Department and host for the LLR, said the event serves to preserve history and build upon it.
“We’re proud of this reunion,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to share experiences, and the things we are doing to improve our community. It’s also an opportunity to hear from them. Some of these Soldiers see what we’re doing, and it generates ideas. It’s about the profession of arms and bringing those generations together in one room.”
The event’s first few hours were illustrative of that idea. Former Soldiers from the Vietnam era and later filed into the PWD headquarters facility, Stewart-Roye Hall, to register for the event, finding familiar faces, exchanging embraces and shaking hands. Retired Sgt. 1st Class Archie Steele, a former instructor, said he attended the last reunion. He said it’s a way to stay in touch with those he served with.
“The best thing about it is seeing old guys who ran PT with you and went to the field with you,” said the former petroleum instructor and Laurenburg, N.C. resident. “You want to know about them, see how they’re doing, and you want them to see how you’re doing as well.”
Bray, who retired in 1995 and had never attended a reunion, seemed to be doing fine. He walked into the lobby with his spouse and exchanged greetings with several of his old battle buddies, including Bradley, who snuck up on him and challenged him to a bout of horseplay. Eager to show his protégé he still had it, the Florida resident faced his opponent and triumphantly bulled him back a few feet. The two smiled, shook hands and began the process of catching up.
The camaraderie amongst the liquid logisticians has always been strong, said retired 1st Sgt. Jeremiah Wesley. “Beans, bullets, fuel and water are what make the world go round,” said the Prince George resident who spent roughly seven years here. “They make things happen, so when you run into someone who has done it, you can appreciate what they’ve done.”
Retired 1st Sgt. James Parham, who retired in 1998 and who attended the last reunion, said the LLRs are like family reunions.
“These guys are like family to me,” said the Florida resident. “For the love of what we did and the long hours of working together, I think we sometimes spent more time with each other than with our own families.”
Aside from the social aspect of the event, many attendees were eager to see how much Fort Lee had changed and the impact of technology on the career field. Parham said it’s an important aspect of the reunion.
“It seems like there is a lot of change every two years,” he said, “and being on the outside, not living near an Army installation, I don’t get the feedback of someone who lives closer. So, it’s important for me to see how much change has occurred the past two years.”
Among those recent changes here is the new 262nd Quartermaster Battalion complex that was built just off A Avenue. The new facility is a convenience to petroleum Soldiers in training, making it possible to march from their barracks to classrooms in a matter of minutes.
“It’s changed for the better,” said retired SFC Randy Rumph, who last saw Fort Lee in 1992. “The modernization of the buildings … It looks completely different. They did a good job.”
The 2014 LLR concluded Saturday with lunch at the new 262nd QM Bn. dining facility and a barbecue that followed at Stewart-Roye Hall.