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202nd RED HORSE, the calm of the storm

202nd RED HORSE, the calm of the storm

Airmen from the 202nd RED HORSE of Camp Blanding, Fla., load up to move out of Sebring after Hurricane Irma, ready to clear roadways and runways Sept. 11, 2017. RED HORSE stands for Rapid Engineering Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers, a highly mobile, worldwide deployable special force. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Carlynne DeVine)

202nd RED HORSE, the calm of the storm

Airmen from the 202nd RED HORSE of Camp Blanding, Fla., load up to move out of Sebring after Hurricane Irma, ready to clear roadways and runways Sept. 11, 2017. RED HORSE stands for Rapid Engineering Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers, a highly mobile, worldwide deployable special force. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Carlynne DeVine)

202nd RED HORSE, the calm of the storm

Airmen from the 202nd RED HORSE of Camp Blanding, Fla., jump off a Caterpillar D6T bulldozer with a Volvo G930 Grader in a Highland County fairground field Sept. 11, 2017. Heavy equipment is used to re-establish roadways, making them accessible for emergency responders. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Carlynne DeVine)

Fort Myers, Fla. (Sept. 12, 2017) --

Airmen from the 202nd RED HORSE of Camp Blanding, Florida, split into five teams and spread throughout South Florida. 

After riding out Hurricane Irma in a high school football team’s weight room in Sebring, they dispersed the next morning, on a mission to the hardest-hit areas.

“The primary purpose for engineers in a hurricane response of this scale is route clearance, making sure that state roads are clear for National Guard response, emergency responder response, power trucks, etc. to restore life, health and safety to that region,” said Army Lt. Col. Elizabeth Evans, 753rd Brigade Engineer Battalion commander. “The secondary purpose would be for what RED HORSE specifically brings in, which is that airfield expedient restoration, so that we can fly elements in and out of the affected area.”

Florida is split into three areas , making each area a task force, said Evans. Task Force Jupiter consists of emergency management zones 4, 6 and 7, spanning from north of Tampa in the Homosassa/Crystal River area, down along the I-75 corridor to the Keys, and up over to Palm Beach County on the southeast side. 

The 53rd Infantry Brigade covers Task Force Jupiter. Battalions from other Florida National Guard units, as well as units outside the state are attaching to Jupiter to assist. Evans commands all engineers within these zones.

“There is rarely a time that we will ever go execute a mission that we don’t take on additional engineer assets,” said Evans. “This is exactly what we’re designed to do, is to slice out our organic engineers and absorb other engineers into our footprint to help us accomplish a construction type mission.”

RED HORSE proves they are one such asset, with Air Force Maj. Peter Rogell, RED HORSE hurricane detail commander, overseeing all 102 engaged Airmen.

“It’s been quite impressive with the rapid response of the 202nd members to truly respond to this short notice mobility movement,” said Rogell. “I couldn’t be more impressed with the senior NCOs and the guidance they have given to the younger troops on their first hurricane response.”

Evans speaks highly of these Airmen as well, fully trusting their capabilities. She addressed the group in a commander’s call before the storm, prepping but also inspiring them.

“The key to this operation is the engineer,” said Evans. “You succeed, we succeed as a state. You fail, we fail as a state. We will not fail.”