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219th RED HORSE Squadron deploys

219th Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer (RED HORSE) Squadron members complete their final processing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., prior to deploying to the United States Central Command area of operations Oct. 3, 2015. The Montana Air National Guard personnel will conduct military engineering projects during the deployment. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson/Released)

219th Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer (RED HORSE) Squadron members complete their final processing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., prior to deploying to the United States Central Command area of operations Oct. 3, 2015. The Montana Air National Guard personnel will conduct military engineering projects during the deployment. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson/Released)

219th Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer (RED HORSE) Squadron members complete their final processing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., prior to deploying to the United States Central Command area of operations Oct. 3, 2015. The Montana Air National Guard personnel will conduct military engineering projects during the deployment. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson/Released)

219th Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer (RED HORSE) Squadron members complete their final processing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., prior to deploying to the United States Central Command area of operations Oct. 3, 2015. The Montana Air National Guard personnel will conduct military engineering projects during the deployment. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson/Released)

219th Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer (RED HORSE) Squadron members board an aircraft at Great Falls International Airport in Great Falls, Mont., to begin their deployment to the United States Central Command area of operations Oct. 3, 2015. The members of the 219th RHS will conduct military engineering projects during the deployment. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson/Released)

219th Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer (RED HORSE) Squadron members board an aircraft at Great Falls International Airport in Great Falls, Mont., to begin their deployment to the United States Central Command area of operations Oct. 3, 2015. The members of the 219th RHS will conduct military engineering projects during the deployment. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson/Released)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- Members of the 219th Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer (RED HORSE) Squadron boarded a contracted civilian airliner to begin their deployment Oct. 3, 2015.

The Montana Air National Guard military construction specialists will travel to the United States Central Command area of operations to work on engineering projects.

Many months of training, planning and preparation went into getting the 219th RHS ready for this overseas deployment.

"Readiness and preparation is ongoing for our unit," said 219th RHS Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Jason Foster. "We're always ready, whether to respond to the stateside mission or overseas contingencies. That's the nature of our squadron-just always be ready."

Behind the scenes Airmen were also at work preparing family members, friends and civilian employers for the day they would deploy.

"There's a lot of preparation that went in for this deployment," said 120th Logistics Readiness Squadron Plans Manager Senior Master Sgt. Heather Kelley. "We've known now for almost a year that this was coming at us so I've got my family ready and prepared myself physically and mentally to be away for that long."

The group of military professionals possesses a wealth of experience going into this deployment. More than half of the deploying members have participated in multiple deployments and many have previous active-duty experience serving as members of the United States Army or Marine Corps. This first-hand knowledge will be a valuable commodity to be shared with the newer members of the unit during the deployment.

"I think I'm going to learn a lot," said 219th RHS Heavy Equipment Operator Senior Airman Amanda Fisher. "I've never deployed before. It's going to give me some insight on what the next level is going to be."

During the deployment the Airmen will use a variety of communication methods to contact their family and friends. Many will rely on modern social media and email to keep in touch.

"We live in a pretty miraculous time with all of the different programs we have," said 219th RHS Structures Flight Lead Tech. Sgt. Craig Koschnick. "It's much, much better off than when things were ten years ago or when you look back to the Gulf War, Vietnam or World War II. I think we've got it pretty good."

But some Airmen will rely upon an old-fashioned method of two-way communication.

"I've got some papers for letters," said 219th RHS Structural Journeyman Senior Airman Matthew Hagler. "I imagine I'll get some back from various family and friends."

Several of the deploying Airmen plan to use what limited free time they have during the deployment to complete physical fitness or educational goals.

Staff Sgt. Aaron Connor needs two more classes to complete his Community College (CCAF) of the Air Force Associates in Applied Science Degree.

"I'd like to finish up my CCAF and get that done and out of the way and continue on with my training," Connor said. "

A sense of pride of belonging to the 219th RHS was apparent as each member completed the required out processing, said their good-byes to family members, met with Montana dignitaries and boarded the aircraft to leave Great Falls.

"The 219th RED HORSE Squadron is a very capable but special unit and I think a lot of that is reflected in the pride that we have," said Foster. "The camaraderie and the pride that we have as well as their capability continue to motivate me as one of their leaders to do the best that I can do for them and for our unit, for our state and for our nation."

The 219th RHS reached out to members of the 120th Airlift Wing to augment their force with additional career specialties to assist during the deployment. Several communications, logistics and maintenance personnel volunteered to deploy with 219th RHS personnel.
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