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819th Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers

On August 8, 1997, the 819th RED HORSE Squadron was activated at Malmstrom Air Force Base (AFB), Mont. The original 819th unit was activated 31 years earlier.

The 819th is the first-ever Air Force/Air National Guard (ANG) Associate unit. This means that the unit is made up of an integrated force of active duty and ANG members.

Its mission is to rapidly mobilize people, equipment, and heavy construction vehicles to anywhere in the world where airpower must be employed. Its training program is focused on ensuring that it can rapidly deploy self-sustaining heavy construction capability along with other units.

The 819th squadron was originally activated in early February 1966 per Special Order G-27, Headquarters, Pacific Air Forces, and originally slated for Ban Sattahip Air Base, Thailand. The authorized strength was 12 officers and 388 airmen.

The 819th followed the standard RED HORSE organizational structure with six sections; administration, medical, engineering/operations, logistical, airfield and cantonment. The logistical section included a supply and services flight and an equipment maintenance flight. The cantonment section had two identical structural flights and a utilities flight.

In addition to squadron personnel, local labor augmented the unit on almost every project and was a major contributing factor in the unit's work. Initially, the unit was authorized a strength of 764 workers, but this was subsequently reduced to 514 with a maximum of 511 employed at any time.

The destination for the unit was changed to Phu Cat AB, Vietnam, in June. This site was located 300 miles north of Saigon and about 20 miles from the coast. The area, formerly a Viet Cong training center, lay in a large, rice-producing valley.

The Airfield section of the 819th was responsible for the operation of all heavy equipment, laying of T-17 membrane and AM-2 matting and construction of all revetments. To build foundation pads, roads and open storage areas, the 819th had to move more than 1 million cubic yards of earth. This went smoothly because of the high level of training and careful attention paid to vehicle maintenance. Daily greasing of fittings and cleaning of all filters were mandatory. Only one piece of equipment went out of commission in the first year.

The Logistics section was responsible for material control, vehicle maintenance and food service. These proved particularly challenging for a remote site at the end of a 6,000 mile supply pipeline.

After one year, the men of the 819th had lived up to the RED HORSE reputation for productivity. They had moved 1.659 million cubic yards of earth, poured 15,500 cubic yards of concrete, and constructed buildings totaling 633,000 square feet. In addition, they had placed 2.1 million square feet of AM-2 matting, finished over 50,000 linear feet of utility lines, fences and storm drainage facilities, erected more than 5,000 linear feet of aircraft revetments and completed more than 5 miles of road.

The 819th would remain at Phu Cat until early 1970 when it moved to Tuy Hoa AB, Vietnam, to help close the base. It returned from Vietnam in 1970 and was stationed at Westover AFB, Mass., until 1973 when it moved to McConnell AFB, Kan. In 1979, it was assigned to RAF Wethersfield, United Kingdom, and tasked with rapid runway repair responsibilities for US Air Forces in Europe along with its traditional heavy repair role. The 819th was inactivated in August 1990.

A team from the 819th RED HORSE Squadron, Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., deployed to Southwest Asia in October 2000 to pave a munitions supply road at Prince Sultan Air Base.

The dirt road serving the western munitions storage area there was in need of constant repair. Ruts and soft spots were making travel difficult. Rather than allow the road to deteriorate and become unstable and unusable for munitions operations, RED HORSE was called in to pave it.

The initial design for the project was complete in September, but once construction crews arrived on site it had to be modified due to equipment shortages. Repairing the road surface and preparing it for asphalt pavement required about 20,000 cubic meters of fill material. The crew straightened curves in the middle of the road, removed hills and filled low spots to level the overall road surface. Drainage was provided for on and around the road, and all sand piles on both sides of the road were removed or leveled.

The crew placed about 9,500 cubic meters of basecourse and used about 3,200 tons of asphalt to pave 7,000 feet (24 foot wide, or 34 foot including the shoulder) of dirt road.

The 17-member team finished the road in December, after honing their wartime readiness skills and providing a quality product to the customer.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:15:25 ZULU