RED HORSE 'family' deploys to Southwest Asia
By Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa, FLNG Public Affairs
/ Published March 12, 2012
Air Guard engineers to serve on six-month deployment -- More than 100 Airmen heading to Southwest Asia this month may be leaving their families behind for the six-month deployment, but according to some members of the unit they are also deploying with their "family."
On March 2, members of the 202nd RED HORSE Squadron were honored during a deployment ceremony at Camp Blanding, prior to their leaving for a 180-mission to provide construction and engineering support for Operation Enduring Freedom. During the ceremony some of the Airmen explained that the heavy engineering squadron is really a "tight-knit" unit that often acts like an extended family for many of its members.
"It's a family," Senior Airman Harold Hughes said of the 202nd. "We all look after each other. That's what I like about the RED HORSE. Once you get to know people and spend time with them - especially if you deploy with them - they do kind of become like your family."
Hughes, an Air Guard combat engineer from Starke, Fla., explained that this would be his second deployment with RED HORSE. He said that although he didn't have an immediate family back home to be concerned about him, he still wanted other families to know their Airmen would be safe with their "Air Guard" brethren during the mission.
The RED HORSE experts will combine with about 100 members from the 254th RED HORSE Squadron from the Guam Air National Guard for a rigorous three-week curriculum of Combat Skills Training (CST) at Camp McGregor, N.M. Upon completion of CST, the 200 plus Airmen will forward deploy to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, where they will jointly form the 557th Expeditionary RED HORSE Squadron. From there they will perform engineering missions in areas including - but not limited to - Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, and United Arab Emirates.
For Senior Airman Chiquita Edwards this will be her first deployment overseas, but she said she already sees how the 202nd can function like a surrogate family while she is away from her real family in Jacksonville, Fla.
"I believe we are a family that looks out for each other," Edwards, a force support specialist with the RED HORSE, said.
She explained that even with the strong support from her fellow Airmen, she will be constantly missing her family - especially her two young sons - until she returns in the fall.
"My seven-year-old is really attached and nervous (for me)," Edwards said. "I just told him that Mommy had to go away for work and I'm going to miss him, but he needs to be strong for me and I'm going to come back."
202nd RED HORSE Commander Col. Wallace Paschal noted that this will be the unit's third deployment overseas since 2001. He said during each of the deployments his leadership team has worked "to keep good camaraderie with all the different sections, and take care of them like family." He said the only difference with this deployment is that they will probably be much busier than in the past.
"The biggest difference is that on previous deployments we took a whole squadron's worth by teaming up with other RED HORSE units," Paschal said. "This time it's half of a squadron."
During the March 2 ceremony Florida Gov. Rick Scott addressed the more than 100 deploying Airmen at their Camp Blanding headquarters, encouraging them and their families to stay strong and positive during the deployment.
"I know it's a significant sacrifice to have a loved one leave and go serve overseas," the governor said. "You always worry about the risk of doing this...but on behalf of every Floridian we're very appreciative of your sacrifice."
Background Information: RED HORSE is an acronym for Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers, and the unit's mission is to provide a highly mobile, rapidly deployable civil engineering response force which can perform heavy damage repair for recovery of critical Air Force facilities.