VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Virginia National Guard Airmen assigned to the 203rd Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers Squadron held a four-day field training exercise Nov. 14-17, 2019, at State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Airmen across more than 20 specialties in the RED HORSE Squadron trained for tasks they would be responsible for during deployments.
“The main goal is just for each [job specialty] to experience what they will do in a deployed environment,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey E. Getz, 203rd RED HORSE Squadron commander. “When we are tasked for a real world deployment, they have experience that helps us get ready [and] hit the ground running and not have to do training once we’re on site, so we’re prepared for our wartime mission.”
More than 150 Airmen participated in the exercise which simulated a deployed environment with a command center and three additional locations acted as off-site operating bases.
“You give these guys a book of matches and they’ll build you a house,” said Command Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Amburn, 192nd Wing command chief. He isn’t the first to echo this sentiment but the truth is more incredible. Give these Airmen some land and water, and they will enable air power.
RED HORSE units provide highly mobile civil engineering teams to support contingency and special operations worldwide. They are self-sufficient with rapid response capabilities conducting independent operations in remote, high-threat environments. They can create or repair runways and erect permanent structures in a matter of weeks from concept and design to engineering and construction.
“The way that we remain the greatest Air Force in the world is through our training,” said Col. Mark D. Piper, 192nd Wing commander. “Doing real world training like this and watching our Airmen perform at the top of their game is really what makes us the greatest warfighters that America has to offer.”
Piper got to experience the expeditionary power of RED HORSE first hand.
“In December of 2001, I showed up at Al Udeid which was not really a base at that point,” said Piper. “I think the only people who were there before us were RED HORSE.”
A collaboration of active duty and Air National Guard units deployed in October 2001 to upgrade the base infrastructure including concrete taxiways, a ramp for aircraft and other structures. Now Al Udeid has a reputation for being a mega base replete with fast food restaurants, a swimming pool and, at times, host to over 10,000 United States military personnel.
Bringing together reserve components and active duty units to create an expeditionary squadron is a common practice for RED HORSE deployments. Another common practice is to cross train in other shops to increase the knowledgebase of the unit. Some units only award the iconic red cap, unique to RED HORSE squadron uniforms, after new members have done some sort of training in every shop.
“For example, bringing in contract services folks to the dining facility so that the folks that are normally doing that can actually go out and do some other things as well,” said Piper. “It’s a better exercise, better training, which ultimately gets us more ready to do the mission downrange.”
Readiness is a critical component to military strategy, which is especially true for rapid deployable units like the 203rd RHS. The Airmen have to be ready at a moment’s notice for deployments and are expected to have the necessary knowledge and skills needed to execute the mission.