203rd RED HORSE helps with AASF improvements

Virginia National Guard Airmen assigned to the Virginia Beach-based 203rd Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers Squadron use heavy equipment to remove a large berm from a plot of land July 30, 2020, at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Sandston, Virginia. (U.S. National Guard photo by Mike Vrabel)

SANDSTON, Va. — Virginia National Guard Airmen assigned to the Virginia Beach-based 203rd Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers Squadron, 192nd Wing, completed several improvement projects July 27 – Aug. 7, 2020, at the Virginia National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility in Sandston, Virginia. 

During the two-week project, the RED HORSE engineers removed a large earthen berm to make room Aviators to conduct Army Combat Fitness Tests, as well as made some improvements to the facility’s flight line. 

For the berm removal, the engineers used heavy equipment including a backhoe, a front loader and an excavator to remove approximately 4,000 tons of earth. Once the opened-up space is graded and planted, the result will be a new area that allows Aviators at the AASF to exercise and conduct ACFTs, according to Col. William X. Taylor, Virginia’s state aviation officer and commander of the VNG’s Army Aviation Support Facility. 

“This berm removal allows aviation to have an area to work-out and conduct an ACFT,” said Taylor. “This allows AV to meet it requirements, improve morale, and provides long-term benefit for the units.”

On the flight line, the RED HORSE engineers conducted maintenance work to important grounding points and aircraft tie-downs to help ensure safety to aircraft and personnel alike. 

“The flight line work provides the ability to safeguard our expensive assets and increases operational readiness and overall unit readiness,” explained Taylor. “We only have so many parking pads. If we can’t ground them properly, we increase our risk every time we refuel and during weather events. We need to protect our personnel and assets and ensure they are ready when called.”

Before the RED HORSE could begin working not he projects, they had to overcome some unique challenges, according to Lt. Col. Jeffery Getz, the 203rd’s commander. 

“COVID-19 restrictions caused delays in material shipping and required extra social distancing practices,” said Getz. “The weather front from Hurricane Isaias caused weather delays and extra preparedness steps to ensure equipment was not damaged.”

Besides the obvious benefits to personnel and assets, having the RED HORSE perform these projects saves the AASF a significant sum of money since the work would have otherwise been contracted out, Taylor said. 

“The benefits in costs and labor are huge. They did the study and work,” said Taylor. “We wouldn’t have been able to do the berm work without them. The cost would have been prohibitive.”

It also provided practical job experience and time on equipment for the RED HORSE’s Airmen, critical training for future federal missions. 

“We get free labor and they use their equipment,” said Taylor. “They do what they do in theatre and get experience, and we benefit cost-wise as a result.

Getz concurred and said working in the AASF environment provided additional benefits. 

“The RED HORSE mission requires a breadth of expeditionary construction skills,” said Getz. “Having the opportunity to interact with a live active airfield while performing the mission better prepares the unit for realistic wartime experiences.”

The 203rd RED HORSE provides a highly mobile civil engineering response force to support contingency operations worldwide.

“We are the Air Force’s heavy construction capability, responsible for building the airfields and operational facilities in an expeditionary environment to give a location for the air frames to land, refuel, and re-arm to continue their missions,” said Getz. “This could be airlift, air to ground, or air-to-air combat and enables the Air Force to fly, fight, and win. We have proven our capabilities since 9-11 and are now utilized by all the services to provide airfields or facilities to allow them to complete their missions.”