FORT LEE, Va. – Their presence is relatively small, but Army petroleum laboratory specialists constitute a larger footprint than their numbers suggest.

In other words, a few thousand Soldiers in a relatively obscure military occupational specialty taught here by the Quartermaster School contribute much to the Army’s ability to mobilize its lethality and move people and equipment to their destination.

Indeed, MOS 92L is arguably the least known of the QM MOSs. They conduct “laboratory tests on petroleum, oil and lubricant products to ensure fire prevention and safety control for our troops, (in accordance with) Army requirements,” according to www.goarmy.mil.

In everyday lingo, petroleum supply specialists are charged with testing and certifying fuels so that Army vehicles like Apache helicopters and Abrams tanks can operate safely.

To a young Soldier undergoing instruction in the 10-week advanced individual training course, the weight of responsibility in the field is tempered by a perspective to support the greater cause.

“It’s an opportunity to help other people,” said Pvt. Janeth Rosales, in her first week of Petroleum and Water Department course training. “Being able to help … is something that really excites me.”

During a recent first-week session at PWD’s Laboratory Training Division, military personnel with focused faces listened to lab coat-attired noncommissioned officers and civilians as they directed activities. Surrounded by beakers, thermometers, hydrometers and other equipment, their task was akin to a fact-finding mission.

“They have to analyze the fuel to see what type it is,” said Marine Staff Sgt. Lashaumus Williams, head instructor.

Students used references and images and recorded fuel temperatures, density data and other information to “determine if the fuel is JP8 (jet fuel), diesel or another type of petroleum,” he said.

The takeaway from the instruction cannot be overstated – fuel confirmation and suitability are essential to military operations, Rosales emphasized.

“If we ultimately mess up the tests, it could cause a loss of life or an accident,” she said. “We have to be very exact in this line of work.”

The Soldiers and Marines present for the instruction stated various reasons for choosing petroleum supply specialist: post-military job prospects are among them. For Rosales, it is attention to detail and a love for chemistry.

“It’s an experience that not a lot of people get. It is not really common in the military, so it’s a really amazing job,” she said.

The 92L Petroleum Laboratory Specialist Course graduates roughly 1,800 military members per year, said Nick Nichelson, chief of the Laboratory Training Division.