219th RED HORSE Squadron deploys to repair Colorado flood-damaged roads
By Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson, 120th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office
/ Published December 08, 2013
GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- Thirty -one members of the 219th RED HORSE Squadron of the Montana Air National Guard deployed to Colorado to support flood relief efforts on Oct. 11, 2013.
The engineering specialists were activated by Montana Governor Steve Bullock to assist the Colorado National Guard and the Colorado Department of Transportation with repairing roads and highways damaged by the devastating September flooding.
RED HORSE stands for Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers, and the squadrons serve as heavy construction units for the United States Air Force. The Colorado deployment allows them to put their vast training and experience to work during a state activation.
"The 219th RED HORSE Squadron's mission is to do engineering work to support nation and state," said 219th RHS Commander Lt. Col. Rusty Vaira. "And in this case, while we are going under state activation for the state of Montana, we'll be assisting a neighboring state.
The Montana Guardsmen will integrate with heavy construction units already in place from Colorado and Utah and repair roads located near the communities of Boulder, Estes Park and Longmont, Colo.
The request for volunteers was met with enthusiasm and excitement from unit members. There was no shortage of volunteers willing to help another state in need.
"We always have great participation from our members in anything we have to do," said Lt. Col. Vaira. "A lot of that is because we have great employers out there that are always willing to let their Guardsmen go and support both the state and nation. That's what makes this a success."
Senior Master Sgt. Joseph Carter will serve as the non-commissioned officer in charge of the Montana Guardsmen during the deployment. He requested leave from his civilian employment as the Jefferson County Road and Bridge Superintendent to volunteer for this deployment.
He says his request to participate in the deployment received the complete support of the Jefferson County Commission and he will be able to utilize his civilian skills to help the citizens of Colorado.
"This is right down my alley at work," Carter said. I was pleased to be able to be called out to do this because I feel real comfortable taking this team down there to do a great job," he said.
The 219th RHS has answered the call to deploy and serve on numerous federal and state missions but this is the first time that members of the 219th RHS have been activated to deploy to a neighboring state in need of assistance.
"We've been all over the nation and all over the world, but never on a state emergency activation like this," said Master Sgt. Robert Brewer, 219th RHS first sergeant. I've never been more proud of my unit and the state than to be able to respond to another state's emergency like this."
The Air Force construction and engineering training unit members received has prepared them well for the humanitarian mission in Colorado.
"They'll be running heavy equipment, they'll be doing a lot of ditch work, shovel work, cleaning culverts out and helping them rebuild their roads so that the citizens of the state can get back into their homes," said Brewer.
The deploying members of the 219th RHS consider the state activation an important opportunity to serve their fellow citizens during a time of need.
"We're here to help in natural disasters when needed," said Staff Sgt. Mary St. Denis, a Heavy Equipment Operator for the 219th RHS. "That is why I joined. I joined the military to make a difference, and this is exactly what I joined to do."
The 219th RHS deployment is scheduled to last 18 days. Follow-on units from Kansas, Tennessee and Florida will replace the Guardsmen once the state activation ends and they return home to Montana.