Oct. 13, 2011

Virginia Beach-based Air Guard civil engineer squadron returns to Virginia from overseas duty

By Cotton Puryear   
Virginia Department of Military Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va.— Family and friends welcomed approximately 120 Airmen from the Virginia Beach-based 203rd RED HORSE Squadron back to Virginia Oct. 8 after serving in Afghanistan and other locations in the Central Command area of operations. The unit began federal active duty Feb. 17, 2011, spent several weeks conducting final preparations in Virginia, then spent three weeks in early March at Fort McCoy, Wisc., for Combat Skills Training before heading overseas.

 

Family and friends welcome approximately 120 Airmen from the Virginia Beach-based 203rd RED HORSE Squadron back to Virginia Oct. 8 after serving in Afghanistan and other locations in the Central Command area of operations. The unit began federal active duty Feb. 17, 2011, spent several weeks conducting final preparations in Virginia, then spent three weeks in early March at Fort McCoy, Wisc., for Combat Skills Training before heading overseas. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Department of Military Affairs)

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“It feels great to be home,” said Lt. Col. Peter S. Garner, commander of the 203rd. “These guys worked hard, and I am really proud of what they did. Now we are ready to be home and back with our families.”

Garner said he was most impressed by the sheer volume of construction work the 203rd conducted at 18 different sites in seven different countries and the integration of active and National Guard units. “It was awesome the way we came together,” he said. “It really was one team, one fight.”

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 Al Udeid AB, Qatar 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 including Al Udeid Air Base, Thumrait Air Base, Manas Transit Center, Al Dhafra Air Base, Bagram Air Field, Al Mubarak Air Field, Camp Leatherneck, Camp Dwyer, and Kandahar Air Field.

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.

 

Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long. Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, Secretary Marla Graff Decker, the Virginia Secretary of Public Safety, and Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis A. Green, the Virginia National Guard Senior Enlisted Advisor, greet approximately 120 Airmen of the Virginia Beach-based 203rd RED HORSE Squadron Oct. 8 at Naval Station Norfolk. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

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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.

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

The 203rd 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 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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