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NEWS | Aug. 20, 2012

203rd RED HORSE Airmen recognized at Hometown Heroes Salute

By Tech. Sgt. Meghan Skrepenski | Virginia Air National Guard Public Affairs

Senior leaders of the Virginia National Guard recognized more than 120 Airmen from the Virginia Beach-based 203rd RED HORSE Squadron during a Hometown Heroes Salute ceremony Aug. 18 at Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach. The ceremony honored the unit’s service as they completed approximately 70 projects in seven countries, at 18 different sites, during their deployment from March to October 2011 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The Hometown Heroes Salute Campaign publicly acknowledges Air National Guard Airmen and those who supported them during the President’s call to duty for Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom and other operations.

“I am extremely proud of what we accomplished over there,” said Lt. Col. Pete Garner, 203rd RHS Commander. Garner honored the families, saying, “Thank you so much for your support. It allowed us to do our job and do it well.”

While deployed, the Airmen of the 203rd RED HORSE served as part of the 1st Expeditionary RED HORSE Group, an organization made of up more than 400 personnel from the 203rd and other RED HORSE units that was a mix of active duty and Air National Guard. The 1st ERHG was headquartered in Southwest Asia and was responsible for providing theater engineer support for vertical and horizontal construction missions and projects that enhanced operations, safety and quality of life for Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines in the Central Command area of operations.

Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, stated, “We are extremely fortunate to have the 203rd RHS with Air Force engineering capabilities like this in the Commonwealth. They are a national asset.”

As part of the Hometown Heroes Salute ceremony, the Airmen received the Virginia Governor’s National Service Medal. The medal was created in 2005 by then-Governor Mark R. Warner to recognize the service of the men and women of the Virginia Army and Air National Guard called to active federal service since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The award was first presented Nov. 11, 2005 at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond.

During the rotation, the 1st ERHG completed 70 projects valued at $32 million. The unit’s highest priorities were upgrading and expanding airfield pavement, bed down missions for unmanned aerial vehicles and construction of a munitions storage area. They utilized the full range of special construction capabilities including K-Span design and construction, erection of expeditionary shelter systems, wood and steel frame construction, erection of pre-engineered buildings, site development, concrete batch plant operations, quarry operations and asphalt, concrete and gravel pavements.

According to Garner, one of the most important projects completed was the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle landing strip along the Afghanistan and Pakistan border. “This project provided increased situational awareness and additional security in the area,” said Garner.

In addition, the 1st ERHG had a 34-person convoy team complete 16 missions, logging 2,000 miles with 13 gun trucks and tractor trailers, the unit’s vehicle mechanics managed and repaired more than 780 vehicles worth more than $105 million and completed almost 1,000 purchase requests for more than 6,000 repair parts, and their supply technicians tracked, distributed, and controlled 1,200 assets worth $138 million throughout the Central Command area of operations.

“We do everything and we do it well,” said Tech. Sgt. Aprille Canniff, commenting on her first deployment with the 203rd RHS. Canniff said that one of the most rewarding projects was, “Rerouting an entire water system to allow for temporary housing for the Army.”

Master Sgt. Alfred Dirosa, the 203rd RHS Structures Supervisor, has deployed three times with the RHS. “It was unusual working with the active duty Air Force, but the training we completed together fostered cooperation,” he said. “I enjoyed supporting the Marines the most…they appreciated all we did…this made us want to work harder to achieve the mission.”

The unit had no Airmen killed or seriously wounded in combat action.

The 203rd also conducted deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003 and 2006.

While headquartered in Virginia Beach, the squadron is made up of Airmen from all over the state. Approximately 65 Airmen who deployed for the mission are from the Hampton Roads area, about 15 are from the Richmond and Fredericksburg areas, approximately six are from the Northern Virginia area, six from the Southwest part of Virginia, 14 from North Carolina and the remaining deploying Airmen are from Georgia, Florida, Ohio, Delaware, and Maryland and various locations throughout Virginia.

RED HORSE stands for Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers, and the unit provides a highly mobile civil engineering response force to support contingency operations worldwide.

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