Virginia Air Guard engineers conduct FTX focused on mobility and deployment skills

Airmen from the 203rd RED HORSE Squadron work to repair simulated runway damage Nov. 3, 2012, during a field training exercise held at Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Megan Skrepenski, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

CAMP PENDLETON, Va. — Airmen from the Virginia Air National Guard’s Camp Pendleton-based 203rd RED HORSE Squadron focused on mobility training and deployment skills Nov. 1-4, 2012, during a field training exercise at Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach. Approximately 120 Airmen from the 203rd RHS participated in the FTX where they set up a forward operating base, conducted warfare training and refined required wartime tasking skills. The exercise emphasized basics like general safety practices, setting up and protecting a base, and field hygiene while more specialized training included war-task training like convoy operations and airfield damage assessments and repair.

“This is great training as we work with the different equipment because all of our gear is mobility equipment and therefore is deployable,” said Lt. Col. Pete Garner, 203rd RHS commander. “We just completed mobility exercises over the last two months to prepare all the equipment for shipment as in Phase I of an Operational Readiness Inspection and now the hands-on training is like Phase II of an ORI.”

The 203rd RHS participates in a FTX approximately every 15 to 18 months, however about a third of the unit has not been a part of an FTX before. “This provides a big learning curve for the FTX by creating a slower than usual operational environment, but a quality training environment,” Garner said. “By rotating younger Airmen into leadership positions it allows them an opportunity to lead and train on the equipment in different situations.”

Additional tasking for the engineers during the exercise included creating rough drawings, and planning and training for an upcoming deployment in late spring 2013.

“This field training puts us into a deployed situation that is still safe, creating a scenario that we wouldn’t usually have during training, as we perform perimeter security and complete a job such as crater repair or runway paving in a high stress environment similar to being deployed,” said Master Sgt. Pat Maguire, 203rd RHS logistics planner.

Equipment used for the FTX included excavators, graders, front end loaders, fuel trucks, dump trucks, and a mobile concrete paver. Intensive training took place on the Mobile Aircraft Arresting System, used for slowing an Aircraft that is unable to stop due to a damaged runway. Additional training focused on a mobile concrete paver, which replaced a section of walkway on Camp Pendleton providing applied training while enhancing the quality of the base.

“The Airmen love this type of training, you can see that they enjoy being part of the team, and they gain valuable, quality training at the same time,” said Maguire.

“We have some new Airmen so I was worried about how the training would go, but they have shown a lot of initiative by volunteering to do whatever is needed, and they are not afraid to get their hands dirty,” said Tech. Sgt. Pat Grace while working on the concrete mobile system. “Throughout the exercise they have already learned a lot. Some people are not here because of Hurricane Sandy but we have all stepped up and are pitching in.”

Staff Sgt. Mark Kramer stated, “This type of training prepares us for whatever may come up on deployment and makes us proficient in skills we need to have.”

The FTX incorporated setting up camp and cleaning and inspecting gear along with conducting ancillary and specialized field training. Included in the training were staged chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, high-yield explosives or equipment attacks on the camp, providing training in a high stress environment similar to deployment.

“This is great training that is difficult to do over a regular two day drill weekend,“ said Master Sgt. Andre Davis, unit training manager.

The FTX also included status of resources and training system reportable training, MAAS training, operating in a field environment in mission oriented protective posture gear, airfield damage assessment and repair, CBRNE training, troop leading procedures, and the set up of a reverse osmosis water purification unit.

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.

The 203rd RED HORSE Squadron is a self-contained, rapid-response engineering force capable of doing expedient damage-requirements assessments, heavy-damage repairs, bare-base development and heavy construction operations such as constructing aircraft parking ramps, aprons, taxi and runways, roads and munitions pads. RED HORSE units possess special capabilities including well drilling, explosives demolition, quarry operations and concrete and asphalt paving. In addition, the unit has its own internal support personnel, including services, vehicle maintenance, security, logistics and information management.

The unit was formed in 1985 and is paired with the 202nd RED HORSE Squadron based in Camp Blanding, Florida. The 203rd RHS has been mobilized and deployed to Southwest Asia in support of the Global War on Terrorism in 2003, 2006-2007 and again in 2011. The unit has also conducted shorter deployment for horizontal and vertical construction projects to locations throughout the state, nation and world to include: Hawaii, Florida, South Carolina, Maryland, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, California, Guam, England, Panama, Honduras, Italy and Germany.

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