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219th RED HORSE Squadron Returns from Deployment

Members of the 219th RED HORSE Squadron in formation.

Members of the 219th RED HORSE Squadron in formation. (U.S. Air Force photo by SSgt John Turner)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- A specialized Montana Air National Guard unit, the 219th RED HORSE Squadron, recently returned from Southwest Asia marking their third involuntary full unit mobilization in support of Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom. 
The seven month deployment adds to its long list of proud and distinguished accomplishments. The classic association with its sister unit, the 819th RED HORSE Squadron, proved once again to be a professional organization that provides a phenomenal capability for combatant commanders worldwide.
The 219th RED HORSE Squadron Commander, Lt. Col. Ryck Cayer, a veteran of four six-month deployments, said the squadron members overcame the usual shortage of materials, tools and heavy equipment expected in an austere environment to complete all of the projects.
"I would say that from my memory this was the smoothest deployment that we've had. The unit cohesion was outstanding-best seen to date, the project management, leadership and group morale, it was just like none I've ever seen before," said Lt. Col. Cayer.
The experienced 219th RED HORSE personnel served leadership roles in operations, logistics and command positions, said Lt. Col. Cayer.
"You can see the association that the 219th has had with the 819th over the past 14 years has really developed and matured. The association has made for a strong RED HORSE unit," he said. 
The combined active-associate RED HORSE squadrons completed 60 projects valued at $45 million during the deployment. 
The largest project was completed at Forward Operating Base Dwyer, Afghanistan. The airmen built two hammerheads for a brand-new runway, an aircraft parking ramp for C-17s and a large Quonset-like facility, said Lt. Col Cayer. 
Senior Master Sgt. Brian Furr served as the logistics superintendent at FOB Dwyer, in charge of vehicle maintenance, supply and services for the RED HORSE personnel. The real-world deployment provided a training opportunity for every member of the squadron, he said.
"It was real good training for all our new folks that are in upgrade training and the scope of the projects that we had allowed our guys that are already upgraded to really hone their skills," said Sergeant Furr. 
At FOB Shindand, Afghanistan, the airmen constructed facilities to bed down the MQ-1B Predator unmanned aircraft system for the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing. The RED HORSE personnel built two separate sets of parking aprons, aircraft shelters and maintenance facilities at this location and installed all of the needed utilities. 
The airmen also constructed facilities to bed down A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft at Kandahar, Afghanistan. 
Master Sgt. Robert Brewer headed the structure shop for the Kandahar project. He said that the RED HORSE personnel, the active duty members and the contract personnel worked well together. "Everyone understands that it's one team, one fight.  We're there to achieve a goal, so working with the Army and the Navy goes very well," he said.
Most of the RED HORSE personnel worked on projects within Afghanistan, but some members were spread out across the region. The squadron also sent airmen to work projects in Kyrgyzstan, Oman, and Qatar.
Lt. Col. Cayer served as the deputy group commander for the RED HORSE Group based in Kandahar, but was able to check on the progress of the projects and visit the troops in the field during the deployment.
"I traveled to all those sites twice, once in the beginning of the deployment and once at the end of the deployment. It was just a great job to be able to go out and see the amazing work that troops do out there, in the conditions that they work in," he said. 
Master Sgt. Mark Lund, NCOIC of RED HORSE mission in Oman said that communicating back home was the best that he had experienced during a deployment. 
"It was wonderful. There were no problems, not only did we have a DSN line, we had the internet capability and also as time went on at our location they got the Wi-Fi going. People were able to Skype and do all kinds of wonderful things. I've never seen it to where troops were so able to talk to their families on a routine basis," he said.

The airmen were also able to offer much needed education and training to the Afghan nationals. 
"Our equipment operators and mechanics gave a small class to the Afghans on maintaining their vehicles. So after hours we did a little training for them to help complete the mission on the FOB," said Master Sgt. Patrick Habel, who served as the NCOIC for FOB Wolverine, in Zabul Province, Afghanistan. 
Lt. Col. Cayer is proud of what the 219th RED HORSE Squadron accomplished during the deployment. "For a small little unit in the middle of Montana it's kind of amazing to think of what capability that Montana and the U.S. Air Force has right here. It's a global capability," he said.
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