October 5, 2003, 14:35 EST

RED HORSE airmen return home from deployment to Southwest Asia

The 203rd RED HORSE Flight, based at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, returned to their home station recently after completing a successful deployment that had much of their unit in Southwest Asia since early April. The last group to return on Oct. 2 consisted of 43 unit members, including 203rd Commander Col. Thomas J. Turlip. (Click HERE to see photos from the deployment.)

A couple hundred family members, senior Virginia Air Guard leadership, and 203rd retirees happily greeted the last group of RED HORSE members as their buses pulled into the unit near midnight on Oct. 2.

The Virginia Air National Guard, rapid response engineering unit received phased mobilization orders in early January 2003 for active federal service of one year in support of ongoing Operation Enduring Freedom/Aerospace Expeditionary Force missions. Groups of 203rd RED HORSE members began deploying to locations in Southwest Asia in early spring, with the last two teams heading for their areas of responsibility on Memorial Day. As they completed their taskings, small groups of unit members began returning home in August.

During the unit's deployment, it joined forces with other RED HORSE units to form the 1st Expeditionary RED HORSE Group. From June 3, 2003, until shortly before his departure from Qatar, 203rd Commander, Colonel Turlip, served as the 1st Expeditionary RED HORSE Group commander. The group was headquartered in Qatar and performed a variety of construction projects in Southwest Asia, including Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq.

The rapid-response engineering unit built facilities for air operations, constructed a warehouse in the UAE, repaired runways in Iraq, and built a 10,000-foot taxiway in an undisclosed location.

Colonel Turlip described his RED HORSE personnel as having high morale. “All of our troops are dedicated and understand why they were deployed,” he said. “They have certainly missed their families and were ready to return home. Everyone here is proud to serve our country and our Air Force as citizen airmen. We take pride in the work we do; and I'm pleased with the quality of work done by the 203rd and all of the units that came together to form the 1st Expeditionary RED HORSE Group. I've worked with an outstanding group of people.”

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