troop letter: Red Horse Squadron
August 21, 2011
“Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers.”
Dear friends and Family,
Yesterday, I had the honor of spending the day on mission with our Red Horse Squadron. “What”, you may ask yourself, “is Red Horse? Some sort of high-flying calvary unit embedded in the Air Force?” Not quite.
Actually, “Red Horse” is an acronym that stands for “Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers.” I know that’s a mouthful but let me tell you about this amazing group of Airmen. Red Horse provides the Air Force with a highly mobile civil engineer response force to support contingency and special operations worldwide. There are four active-duty, five Air Force Reserve Command, and five Air National Guard Red Horse squadrons, which make up ten Red Horse Squadron equivalents. They are mobile heavy construction squadrons capable of rapid response and independent operations for up to 30 days - completely self sufficient in remote, high-threat environments worldwide. They provide heavy repair capability and construction capability when requirements exceed normal civil engineer unit capabilities. These hard-working warriors assess, plan and establish contingency facilities/infrastructure to support contingency operations and combat missions – such as rapid damage/requirements assessment, heavy damage repair, bare-base development, and heavy construction operations such as aircraft parking ramps, munitions pads, facility repair, etc.
It was truly my honor to spend a day “embedded” with members from the 823rd Red Horse Squadron based out of Hulburt Field (FL) and the 203rd ANG Red Horse Flight out of Camp Pendleton (VA). Their mission yesterday was the completion of the rapid construction of a 120 ft by 60 ft facility. Within a week, this team took a site from dirt to a massive building nearly ready for move-in. Just yesterday, we completed the final 57 feet of the facility structure (their previous single-day best for the week was 30 ft). While spending a full twelve-hour shift with them, I made several observations:
• I was reminded of Nehemiah and his team of builders as they rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem. They made astonishing progress also. In Nehemiah 4:6, we read about the rapid progress on the huge wall, “So we rebuilt the wall… for the people had a mind to work.” There was no denying that my new Red Horse friends also had “a mind to work.”
• Also, Nehemiah and his fellow laborers had opposition and battle-field conditions with which they had to contend. Beginning in verse 16 of Nehemiah 4, we read about the strategy for dealing with attacks while construction was ongoing, “From that time on, … half of my servants worked at construction, while the other half held the spears, the shields, the bows, and wore armor… Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon. Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built. And the one who sounded the trumpet was beside me. “ Combat construction – the mission of Nehemiah and the mission of Red Horse. It is not uncommon to find Red Horse personnel working with both the tools of construction (hammers, wrenches, saws, …) and the weapons of war-fighting (side-arms, rifles, …) at the same time.
• Upon completion of the wall, Nehemiah and all the people celebrated together. Nehemiah 8 describes a great gathering for worship. Verse one states that “all the people gathered together as one man in the open square.” The unity among the people was reflected as they reached completion together. Yesterday, after our crew (the lift crew) completed our mission (extruding, carrying, and stacking 1000 pound arcs of steel) and then picked up tools, and secured the equipment, we waited for the top crew (those men working on top of the structure) to seam the final 6 foot wide section into place. They descended and then we gathered and waited. I wondered for a moment what was causing the delay. Why were we not being dismissed? Then I noticed… the welder had to complete the final twelve attachments. One man was still working. So, until everyone was done, no one was done. Amazing camaraderie and teamsmanship! As the final weld was made and the last of the gear was stowed, the OIC (officer in charge) thanked the team for a job well done and dismissed us for the evening. Then, as a team, we all left the site.
I’ve attached two pictures of us at work.
As you pray for our brave airmen, soldiers, marines, sailors, and guardians serving with honor, pray for our Red Horse warriors. I was humbled to be in their midst yesterday. While they seemed truly thankful to have a chaplain take such an interest in their work and “sling steel” with them for a full 12 hour shift without complaint, I surely was the most blessed as I watched warriors with wrenches who truly “had a mind to work.”
I miss you all very much and I am counting the days until I am back home with you. Until then, you are all in my prayers.
In His Grace,
Chaplain (Capt) Thomas