Red Horse dedicates work to building base

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Heavy equipment, red hard hats and the shout of 'Ready, go!' break the early morning silence as members of the Red Horse unit start another grueling workday at a forward-deployed location in the Arabian Gulf region.

People from the 819th/219th Red Horse Squadron were deployed to help build up portions of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing and other forward-deployed locations throughout the region.

Red Horse workers came together to put 160 feet of steel arches in place on a new supply building in one day. The work load may be intense, especially since the new building -- if completed in time -- will set a new record for the number of arches that can be completed in one day.

"Every once in a while we are challenged to complete projects in a certain timeframe to test how good we are," said Maj. Corey Halvorson, Red Horse squadron commander. "We might take them up on a good-natured challenge just to prove how well we work together as a team to accomplish difficult tasks."

Taking on challenges seems to come easily to a squadron so diverse in talents. The squadron is made up largely of Air National Guardsmen who bring job skills from civilian jobs and prior active-duty service backgrounds.

"In the civilian sector, I work in a mental heath center," said Senior Airman Drenda Niemann. "I enjoy working with Red Horse because it gives me a chance to do a different job that lets me work with my hands. At the end of a day, I can physically see what my co-workers and I have accomplished."

"Everyone here does a little bit of everything ... because in contingency operations like this, we can rely on a member's civilian skills in addition to their military specialty," said Staff Sgt. Keith Morris.

If the team needs electricians for example, it would try and find someone who does that in their civilian job, said Morris.

"It is nice to have resources like that in addition to our active-duty members - the work gets done, and we all get to learn something new," Morris added.

Everyone is sure to learn something when 20 percent of the 219th Red Horse Squadron enlisted airmen have college degrees with several also holding master's degrees and another 10 percent attending college as full-time students.

"We have people in every niche in the private-sector, from large company managers and engineers to psychologists and college students," said Halvorson. "That is what makes our unit one of the most educated and diversified in the Air Force."

The concept of an Air Force unit that could build a base from the ground up dates back to 1967, when then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara wanted an Air Force equivalent to the Navy Construction Battalion, better known as the SEABEES.

The 219th, an Air National Guard unit, stood up in 1997 and becomes part of the 819th Red Horse Squadron when activated.

"From the time we stood up in 1997 to now, we still retain about 85 percent of the same reservists that started with us," said Halvorson. "With only 2 percent of the same active-duty members being with us that long due to permanent-change-of-station moves, retirements and separations, the combined unit really makes us more of a close-knit family."