A RED HORSE rises in Ohio
on Thursday, 24 July 2008

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MANSFIELD, Ohio – The Air National Guard’s oldest rapid engineering, deployable, heavy operational repair squadron engineer (RED HORSE) set itself anew here July 20 with the historic activation of a new 200-person detachment, 37 years after the squadron's inception.

Although a morning storm at Mansfield Air Guard Base shortened the activation ceremony for Detachment 1 of the 200th RED HORSE Squadron (RHS), hundreds of its red-capped civil engineers were still able to witness their unit's new flag unfurled outside.


Airmen from the squadron's headquarters at Port Clinton, Ohio, outside Camp Perry, who hold more worldwide deployments under their belts than most can recall, joined them. Then a bulldozer of lightning, thunder and heavy rain pushed their formation indoors.

"It's not very often you get to see a flag going up anymore," said Air Force Maj. Daniel Tack, detachment commander, who had ducked inside from the pouring rain with nearly 400 others that were in formation. "It's nice to stand up a flag."

Officials said it was a historic moment for Air Guard civil engineering because the detachment now makes the 200th a fully-manned, 404-person RED HORSE and one of only two such National Guard squadron-detachment combinations within a single state.

RED HORSE squadrons build and repair air bases. They can rapidly deploy to recover an air base after a natural disaster or enemy attack.

The many abilities of the RED HORSE seem comparable only to their accomplishments since the Air Force formed them in 1965. Today, each RHS is manned by combat-ready Air Force civil engineers skilled in mechanical, electrical, structural, pavement and other career fields. They are also comparable to an air wing with their own support elements, including vehicle maintenance, food service, supply and medical personnel, among others, which make them self-sustaining.

The National Guard has deployed its RED HORSE squadrons for wartime and homeland missions since 1972.

Two, 200-person units – a squadron and a detachment – form a full, 400-person RED HORSE.

With the addition of Mansfield's detachment, there are now eight RED HORSE units in the Air Guard – six of these Guard units form three, full RHSs, while two others, the 219th RHS in Montana and the 254th RHS in Guam, are associated with active-duty units.

Recent RED HORSE changes stem from the Base Realignment and Closure decisions. They include Ohio's 200th RHS and Pennsylvania's 201st RHS. Both squadrons increased to full size units from BRAC and stood up their detachments in April.

"Those changes bring an incredible capability to the Air National Guard," said Air Force Master Sgt. Daniel Eakman, the Air Guard's RED HORSE functional manager. "These guys can go out in any homeland defense mission, and they come with a lot of equipment and a lot of highly specialized folks and engineers, which are in high demand."

Tack confirmed that the Ohio detachment was official in April, but because its Airmen were already deployed along Arizona's southern border in support of Operation Jump Start, they waited until now to hold their flagging ceremony.

"This was the first date we had available to bring the entire squadron together to recognize the standup," said Tack.

For the last three months in Arizona, Airmen from Camp Perry and Mansfield joined in their first deployment together. There, the squadron poured nearly a mile of concrete roadway, installed 5,700 feet of guardrail and setup more than 21 miles of electrical lines, their connections and light-poles.

"We did all the rotations down to Jump Start as a joint effort," said Tack. "We had all the equipment there ... it was all the stuff that we do, here or deployed, and it was really good training."

“Every job they tackle, they get it done,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Thomas E. Cullen, from the squadron’s Structures shop in Port Clinton July 19, an hour's drive north of Mansfield. He has deployed with RED HORSE since 1993 including recent deployments to Iraq and Arizona.

Cullen said the expanded RED HORSE has also brought changes there, including new additions in Cullen's 30-man shop, which can pour concrete, erect vaulted "K-Span" buildings made from coiled steel, and fabricate wood, metal and other materials.

“Everything is coming together real good, and I like it,” said Cullen.

Working in Cullen's shop were several recent enlistees. They were busy on various projects, grinding metal beams, cutting wood and bending sheet-metal. Cullen said his shop also had five Airmen currently at technical schools.

“It’s been growing," he said, raising his voice over the noise of a grinder, about the recent influx of new Airmen at Camp Perry, "and we are managing to retain some of our older people too.”

The new detachment was manned with a mix of Camp Perry's Airmen, civil engineers from across Ohio, neighboring Pennsylvania and nearly 120 new recruits.

“They are very young,” said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Rick Bressler, squadron operations manager, about his sister unit. “For them the whole RED HORSE mission and our special capabilities are new. And their focus right now is to get as much training as they can in the next two years."

Although the squadron at Camp Perry is the main headquarters and where its support offices are located, the detachment will be equally equipped, including typical heavy equipment like backhoes, bulldozers and dump trucks. Officials said the only difference is that the Mansfield detachment will have an additional air insert (helicopter) team.

Back at Mansfield, Tack said another accomplishment was in manning the new detachment to 95 percent capacity within a year. Tack credited much of that to the recruiters at Mansfield's 179th Airlift Wing, of which the detachment is a tenant.

Tack and Bressler both said their challenge now is training and preparing the entire RED HORSE for an Operation Iraqi Freedom deployment in 2010. The detachment is also working with the city of Mansfield to secure a 60-acre plot across the runway from the Mansfield Air Base, where they said they will have more room for their equipment and training.

"We should be ready for our deployment," Tack said.

200th and 200th Det 1
200 RHS and 200 RHS Det 1


Last update: Saturday, 26 July 2008

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