May 26, 2003, 20:28 EST

Groups from the 203rd RED HORSE deploy to Middle East on Memorial Day

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The last two groups of Virginia Air National Guard 203rd RED HORSE Flight members deploying to the Middle East departed on Memorial Day, May 26. The Air National Guard unit, based at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, Va., began deploying personnel to the Middle East on April 1.

A small number of VaANG 192nd Fighter Wing personnel, based in Sandston, Va., are augmenting the 203rd. The Virginia Air National Guard members are being deployed to an undisclosed location in support of ongoing U.S. military actions in Iraq.

They will join up with personnel from their sister unit, the 202nd RED HORSE Squadron stationed at Camp Blanding, Florida, and other RED HORSE units from across the U.S. The units are currently and will continue to be involved in various construction projects for an undetermined period.

RED HORSE is a rapid-response, self-contained Air Force civil engineering force. They are capable of repairing airfield runways, performing the full range of horizontal and vertical construction activities (e.g. heavy equipment operators, earth movement, road grading and paving, facilities construction, drilling wells, electrical, plumbing, etc.) and setting up operational military bases in undeveloped areas. RED HORSE was initially an acronym that stood for Rapid Engineering Deployable, Heavy Operation Readiness Special Equipment.

Colonel Thomas J. Turlip commands the 203rd RED HORSE Flight; he is a traditional, or drill status guardsman, who has been on active duty orders since early January when the unit received its initial activation order. There are approximately 180 personnel currently assigned to the unit out of 209 authorized positions. The 203rd stood up in January 1985; and this is the first time the unit has been mobilized (federally activated) in its history.
The 203rd RED HORSE Flight received its federal activation order in January, calling for the phased-in mobilization of a significant portion of the unit for active federal service that could last up to one year.

The decision to mobilize the Air Guard unit and place it in a federal status occurs at the Department of Defense level, in response to the nation's current military needs.

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