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219th RHS officer briefs MAC on deployment

Montana Air National Guard 219th RED HORSE Squadron Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Jason Foster speaks to members of the Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee during their monthly lunch at the 120th Airlift Wing in Great Falls, Mont. Nov. 4, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

Montana Air National Guard 219th RED HORSE Squadron Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Jason Foster speaks to members of the Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee during their monthly lunch at the 120th Airlift Wing in Great Falls, Mont. Nov. 4, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- The deputy commander of the 219th RED HORSE Squadron briefed members of the Military Affairs Committee of the Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce on the heavy construction unit's accomplishments on its recent deployment to Southwest Asia during a lunch held in the 120th Airlift Wing dining facility November 4.

Lt. Col. Jason Foster served as the director of operations for the 557th Expeditionary RED HORSE Squadron during his deployment.

The Montana Air National Guard heavy construction unit joined with squadrons from Guam and New Mexico and individual air guard and active duty augmentees to make up the complete 557th ERHS. This deployment was the first time the expeditionary squadron would contain a complete staffing of air guard personnel.

The MAC membership consists of military veterans and leaders from the local business community who support the personnel and missions of military units in the Great Falls area.

"The biggest reason why I'm happy to be here is just to say thank you, thank you to our military leaders and to our civilian leaders," Foster told the MAC members. "The reason why I and many others were able to do this was because we have employers who cut us loose for some time. And most importantly, (I thank) our families."

To underscore the type of work the 219th RHS performs Foster included the squadron's mission statement in his presentation: "The 219th RHS is a highly mobile, self-sufficient, heavy construction engineer response force capable of completing missions in remote, high-threat environments worldwide. In addition, we provide an emergency engineer response force to the state of Montana upon direction of the governor."

"I underlined the top sentences of our mission statement, because that's what we did," Foster said. "We train throughout the year, through the drill weekends and other key points throughout the year to be able to accomplish that mission."

Foster highlighted the capabilities of the 219th RHS, saying it is a highly mobile and self-sufficient unit that utilized several career fields found outside a standard civil engineer squadron. Individuals from the 120th Airlift Wing deployed with the 219th RHS and brought logistics and communication skills to aid with the deployment.

"We are a heavy-construction unit," Foster said. "We have special capabilities, special training and equipment. If you need us to build an airbase, we can do it. If you need us to build buildings, we can do it. If you need us to build water wells, we can do it. Even if that means we have to make our own rock, make our own concrete and do everything along the way, we can do it."

Foster said members of the 219th RHS worked projects in five different operating locations in four different Southwest Asia countries during the deployment.

The challenges the construction specialists faced included obtaining the right materials for projects and ensuring the safety and security of the team members.

"Obviously, force protection and security were a constant concern," Foster said. "Different threats and different places, different postures depending upon where you are going, but always making sure that whenever we were sending people to new locations they had to train and they had the awareness and were continued to be plugged into what was going on with some of the areas that we operated in."

Despite the challenges, Foster said the six month 219th RHS deployment resulted in many successes and credited the diverse skills maintained by the Guardsmen for completing the number of projects.

"There were a host of challenges but I'm proud of how the team came together to overcome them," Foster said. "We had a hand in approximately 40 projects-over 40 million dollars in materials only-but we were really able to construct the top priority projects."
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