By Maj. Deb Magaldi
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va., - An advance team of nearly 30 Airmen from the Virginia National Guard’s 203rd RED HORSE Squadron left Virginia Beach on Oct. 16, headed for Southwest Asia. The main body of the unit – numbering approximately 100 – left the base earlier in the day, headed for Fort McCoy, Wisc., and a 30-day rotation through combat skills training (CST) in preparation for the unit’s deployment.
After completing CST, the Airmen will deploy directly to Southwest Asia. Both groups are scheduled to return to Virginia Beach during May 2007.
This marks the Virginia Air National Guard engineering unit’s second federal mobilization in support of the war on terror. From April through October 2003, the unit carried out an array of construction projects at military installations in Southwest Asia as part of the 1st Expeditionary RED HORSE Group. RED HORSE stands for Rapid Engineers Deployable Heavy Operations Repair Squadron, Engineers.
This time around the Virginia Airmen will deploy to air bases in Qatar, Afghanistan, and Iraq. They will join forces with more than 500 Airmen from other Air National Guard and active Air Force RED HORSE and Prime BEEF (Base Engineer Emergency Force) units.
Airmen assigned to RED HORSE and Prime BEEF units are engineers who help build and maintain the facilities of an Air Force Base. Their capabilities include construction of shelters and air base operation facilities, and repairing runways.
“We have a great group of RED HORSE men and women here who are ready and able for the mission,” said Lt. Col. Paul Julian, 203rd RHS commander. “We’re ready to get started on the work assigned to us.”
Dozens of family members, senior Virginia Air Guard leaders and the local news media were on hand for both of the Oct. 16 departures. The 203rd family support group – dubbed “Charlie’s Club” after Charging Charlie, the RED HORSE mascot – made sure each unit member received a “goody” bag stuffed with treats before stepping onto the buses.
The advance team first left the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach on Sept. 12 for its 30 days of combat skills training. During meetings with both the advance team and the main body, in September and October, Brig. Gen. William Busby, Virginia’s assistant adjutant general for air, spoke with the troops about the importance of their mission. He thanked them for their sacrifices and their commitment to fight for the liberties and freedoms of everyone in the United States. He assured the unit members that the Virginia Air Guard stands ready to support them and their family members while the unit is deployed.