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Air Force beefs up RED HORSE capabilities

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Starting this year, Air Force Reserve Command will convert some positions and move others to give the Air Force a larger RED HORSE force.

The Air Force needs more rapid engineer deployable heavy operational repair squadron engineer Airmen to support the Global War on Terror. To meet that need and support the Total Force, AFRC will create 446 RED HORSE authorizations.

"The combatant commanders requested more RED HORSE capability," said Lt. Col. Joe Ballard, chief of the civil engineer's readiness division at Headquarters AFRC. "A lot of the work going on in Iraq and Afghanistan is reconstruction and force beddown; of course, it is in a war environment."

In October, the command will start converting Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force squadrons to RED HORSE squadrons at Charleston AFB, S.C., and Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C. Reservists displaced by Base Realignment and Closure actions will have an opportunity to join the new units.

In addition, the Air Force Reserve will move its 556th RED HORSE Squadron at Lackland AFB, Texas, to Hurlburt Field, Fla., where the squadron will associate with the Regular Air Force RED HORSE unit.

RED HORSE units deploy rapid-response civil engineering forces anywhere in the world. They are able to operate independently from other units in remote, high-threat, bare-base locations.

With their heavy equipment, they can build and repair facilities and infrastructure when requirements exceed normal base civil engineer capabilities. They can also carve out airstrips to launch and recover aircraft in remote areas.

In addition to fighting the Global War on Terror, RED HORSE Airmen go to Third World nations in support of humanitarian operations such as New Horizons, improving basic living conditions in impoverished communities, constructing schools, medical facilities, roads, and drilling wells.

Reservists in the civil engineer squadrons at Charleston AFB and Seymour Johnson AFB will receive advance training to meet RED HORSE requirements. People affected by BRAC actions at other locations will have an opportunity to join the new units.

Colonel Ballard said the Air Force picked Charleston AFB and Seymour Johnson AFB because the bases are near major ports for moving equipment and have excellent recruiting and combat readiness histories.

Moving the Air Force Reserve's 556th RHS to Hurlburt Field to associate with the Regular Air Force's 823rd RHS is in keeping with Total Force Integration initiatives.

"The optimum situation is to place our units at a location where an active-duty squadron is already located," said Clyde Wilkins of the civil engineer's plans and initiatives branch, Headquarters AFRC.

In another TFI initiative, the Reserve's 555th RHS at Nellis AFB, Nev., will formally associate with the Regular Air Force's 820th RHS at Nellis AFB.

Mr. Wilkins said, associating active-duty and Air Force Reserve units, an approach Air Force flying units began 40 years ago, is an effective way to enhance a unit's capabilities.

According to Mr. Wilkins, the associate unit at Nellis AFB will be postured as a classic association. That means the active-duty RED HORSE unit will share its equipment with the Reserve unit.

The Air Force Reserve's 307th RED HORSE Squadron will stay at Barksdale AFB, LA. It will remain available to augment the 554th RED HORSE Squadron at Andersen AFB, Guam, in case of contingency operations, Lt Colonel Ballard said.

The Air Force Reserve's new RED HORSE units will not associate with active-duty RED HORSE squadrons. Instead, the reservists will associate with Airmen in the active-duty Prime BEEF civil engineer units at their respective bases, said Mr. Wilkins.

In the active associate relationship, the Air Force Reserve units will own the equipment and share it with active-duty civil engineers.

Colonel Ballard said, through the associations, the Air Force expects to improve readiness and efficiency by sharing equipment, facilities and resources that will in-turn get Airmen trained and keep them proficient with fewer resources.

AFRC officials said they realize moving a unit and reorganizing two others affects Citizen Airmen.

"The good news is, just as in the BRAC situations affecting bases Air Force-wide, the opportunity to stay with those units is there," said Colonel Ballard. "There will be opportunities at Charleston AFB and Seymour Johnson AFB."

He said manpower and personnel people in the command's clearing housing continue to work to help displaced Citizen Airmen find jobs. (Air Force Reserve Command News Service)