MINNEAPOLIS-ST PAUL AIR RESERVE STATION, Minn. --
For the last two and a half months the Minneapolis-St. Paul Air Reserve Station’s track and field has been overrun by horses, RED HORSEs.
Also known as rapid engineer deployable heavy operational repair squadron engineers, RED HORSE Squadrons are fully-armed, self-sufficient civil engineering units capable of performing personnel or weapons systems bed-down, and build or repair facilities and infrastructure.
Because the Air Force Reserve’s overall readiness depends on the individual readiness of each Reserve Citizen Airmen, Airmen from the 560th and 555th RED HORSE Squadrons were activated May 1 to help oversee a two year project with the 934th and 133rd Airlift Wings, to practice their rapid deployment capabilities by building a new perimeter road and running track for the installation.
“We had a need for major pavement projects that were not at all likely to be funded through the normal processes in the foreseeable future,” explained Col. Anthony Polashek, 934th AW commander. “So we discussed the idea of reaching out to see whether Air Force Reserve RED HORSE units would be interested to use this need as an opportunity to accomplish some of their necessary training.”
“Every year, RED HORSE puts out a call letter for projects to consider,” elaborated Maj. Benjamin Rhoda, 934th Civil Engineer Squadron engineering flight chief. “The RED HORSE council meets and reviews the projects and selects the ones that have the right size and scope and meet their training needs.”
So in the spring of 2017, Corey Peterson, 934th CE base civil engineer, responded to the call and submitted the project to the RED HORSE Steering Group.
In May 2018, leadership from the 560th RED HORSE Squadron came to do a site visit for the project and shortly afterwards they agreed to design and build the road, Rhoda continued.
What turned out to be a simple idea became a collaborative win for both the 934th AW and RED HORSE Airmen.
“For us, this project covers a lot of the same skills and equipment that we would use when we are deployed,” explained Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Liebherr, 560th RED HORSE Squadron site lead.
“If you picture a deployment like a football game, this troop training project is our scrimmage to get everyone up to snuff,” Staff Sgt. Schyler Carbone, 560th RED HORSE Squadron engineering assistant added. “It allows us to see what deficiencies we have in training so we can tackle them before it is go time.”
But preparing for contingent operations and improving dated infrastructures were not the only driving forces behind this project, the other main goals were to improve the security of the installation and the safety of 6,000 military personnel who work and workout on base.
“As it stands right now, there is no perimeter road between the fence line and the track so Security Forces Airmen have to patrol 600 feet away from the fence, which is problematic because if there is an issue next to that section of the fence Airmen have to respond by foot,” Carbone explained. “Not only does traveling by foot slow down response time but also puts Airmen at risk since that section of the fence is right next to a major highway. Additionally, the road they were using for their patrol was part of the running track and it would get shut down during PT tests and caused issues between runners and vehicle traffic throughout the week. It was very deficient as far as infrastructure.”
Not only will this project increase force protection and solve the pervious issue of having a track built on a commonly used roadway, but once complete the new wider design will allow for a more efficient use of manpower and resources.
“By adding a third lane and not using roads, we will be able to eliminate two required road guards for each test and be able to test up to 48 Airmen per test, as compared to the current maximum of 36,” explained Polashek. “By using larger group sizes we can gain a lot of efficiency and conduct fewer tests overall, which will relieve pressure on the utilization of our unit physical fitness leaders.”
While phase one of this project is expected to be complete by the end of this September, the overall project will not be finished until the end of August 2020.
“The project had to be broken up over two summers due to the size of the projects and to optimize availability of the team members,” Polashek explained. “But by doing it this way we will be getting it done far sooner than we could have by attempting to compete for limited Facilities Sustainment, Restoration and Modernization dollars, and it also provides an excellent training opportunity to our RED HORSE partners.”
“We will have the perimeter road and fitness center parking areas done by September when we get ready to leave,” Liebherr said. “But construction for the running track will not begin until May 2020 during the second phase of this project.”
In the meantime, Airmen and partner units will be directed to use the 133rd Air Wing running track.
“We understand that construction can be very limiting and effecting ever day life for everyone else outside of a construction project,” Liebherr reflected. “But what I want people to take away is that our biggest goal is to make everything better. All of the teams involved in this project are all really passionate about what we are doing and want to create a great finished product so everyone station here can enjoy a better life on base.”