Feb. 22, 2011

Virginia Air Guard civil engineers demonstrate capabilities for employers as they prepare for federal active duty

By Capt. Craig Carper
Virginia Air National Guard

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Virginia Guard Airmen from the Virginia Beach-based 203rd RED HORSE Squadron demonstrated their capabilities to employers Feb. 18 at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach as they conducted final preparations for federal active duty service in Afghanistan. Working with the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve organization, the squadron hosted a lunch for employers to educate them about their capabilities and thank them for their support as the squadron conducts final preparations for federal active duty in Afghanistan and other locations in the Central Command area of operations.

 

Airmen from the 203rd RED HORSE Squadron demonstrate their capabilities to employers Feb. 18 at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Va. Department of Military Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

“We can’t do our jobs without the support of our civilian employers,” said Lt. Col. Pete Garner, commander of the 203rd.

The tour on federal active duty began Feb. 17 for approximately 125 Airmen, and they will report to Fort McCoy, Wisc., in early March for three weeks of Combat Skills Training before heading overseas. The unit is expect to be mobilized for six to eight months and should be back in the United States in time for Christmas.

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.

Upon arrival in Qatar, the RED HORSE members will deploy to various locations in Afghanistan and throughout the Central Command area of operations and conduct their normal missions that include construction of airfields and roads, K-Span and other vertical structures, major utility systems, well drilling to provide fresh water to military and local population and convoy logistics patrols.

“We are excited about the mission,” Garner said. “We have a lot of new members who haven’t deployed before, and we have veterans who have deployed two or three times, so this is a great opportunity to carry on our traditions and accomplish the mission.”

 

Airmen from the 203rd RED HORSE Squadron Services Section serve lunch to Virginia Air Guard personnel and their employers Feb. 18 at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Va. Department of Military Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

Garner explained that the RED HORSE is a special unit within the Air Force with special capabilities.

“There are not many of us in the Air Force,” he said. “It is a great honor to be called on to support Operation Enduring Freedom. There are always improvements we can do to help improve the quality of life on the bases in Afghanistan, so there is plenty of work for us.”

The squadron will be deploying with approximately 20 members from the 202nd RED HORSE Squadron from the Florida Air National Guard along with the 823rd RED HORSE Squadron, an active duty unit out of Hurlburt Field in Florida.

“The 203rd continues to serve a vital role in the overall mission of the Virginia Air National Guard,” said Brig. Gen. Zane Johnson, the Virginia National Guard Air Component Commander.  “More importantly, when called to active duty, they continue to step up and surpass expectations as demonstrated in their past deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003 and 2006. I am confident the ‘Horse’ will do the same on the upcoming deployment.”

While headquartered in Virginia Beach, the squadron is made up of Airmen from all over the state. Approximately 65 Airmen  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.

Additional reporting by Mr. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Department of Military Affairs.

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