MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. --
Airmen from the 819th RED HORSE Squadron were flown into the mountains near Augusta to exercise bare base build up capabilities recently.
“The exercise kicked off with a recall July 24, which is how Airmen would receive notification to initiate an actual deployment in this type of situation,” said Tech. Sgt. Lance Westpfahl, 819th RHS readiness unit deployment manager.
Approximately 100 Airmen were recalled and immediately started planning for the exercise.
“We were told we could be deploying at any time, so we had 72 hours to prepare for a bare base to support 500 people and C-130 operations at five passes a day,” said Capt. Justin Eshleman, 819th RHS project engineer and officer in charge of the exercise. “Our goal was to deploy out there, set up a tent city, evaluate the airfield and see what we would need to fix on the airfield or see if it can already support operations with all of the facilities and infrastructure required to support 500 people.”
The Rapid Engineer Deployable, Heavy Operational Repair Squadron, Engineer (RED HORSE) squadron provides the Air Force with a highly mobile civil engineering response force and has the capability to set up a bare base within 72 hours.
The real-world or exercise scenario and the number of deployers determines the supplies and equipment required to support the mission.
According to Eshleman, this scenario required 48 tents for housing as well as support tents for medical, chaplain and civil engineering operations. Additionally fuel, power and water would be set up.
Exercises like this help train and prepare Airmen for wartime responsibilities when they have to initiate and sustain operations in austere bare base environments and remote hostile locations.
"The more that we do this the better prepared we are when we deploy and actually are at a bare base. We can set up quickly, efficiently and everyone knows what they are doing when boots hit the ground," said Staff Sgt. Heidi Agustin-Dominguez, 819th RHS readiness unit deployment manager.
This is the first time in recent years the squadron has held an exercise like this outside of Malmstrom.
Around 72 hours after the recall the Airmen loaded into a C-130 from the Montana Air National Guard and flew out to the airfield where they began setting up.
Once there, the squadron set up tents, a mess hall and received training from two security forces Airmen on individual movement techniques and defensive fighting positions.
“The exercise focused on job-specific training and what we do in RED HORSE as an entire unit,” Agustin-Dominguez said.
While RED HORSE is mostly made up of civil engineering Airmen they also have other job specialties in the squadron that are necessary to support a bare base mission.
“We have all of the regular [Air Force specialty codes] that a CE unit would have plus we have logistics, vehicle maintenance, medical, services, communications, security forces as well as a full [command support staff],” Eshleman said.
The entire squadron was tasked to mobilize and demonstrate the capabilities of each job specialty and as a squadron as a whole.
“The exercise tested the ability to deploy within 72 hours along with the ability to plan the bed down of forces to include shelter, power, water, food, airfield evaluation, and the equipment and materials required for airfield repair,” Eshleman said.
The 819th RHS successfully demonstrated their capabilities, completed their training and came back with ideas to use for future exercises and deployments.