RED HORSE Airmen return home from 6-month deployment

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Hussein Enaya
  • 1st Special Operations Wing

When the 823d Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers arrived on Tinian Island, Guam, they found a World War II-era airfield in need of major repairs.

Members of the 823d RED HORSE from Hurlburt Field, Florida, spent more than six months rebuilding and restoring old runways that once were a crucial U.S. military asset in the Pacific Islands during World War II.

The team returned home April 14, 2024, welcomed by family, friends and squadron leadership.

“We were tasked to create the infrastructure that's needed in order for the Pacific Air Force to posture a new way of fighting and competition,” said Lt. Col. Brandon Balskus, 823d RED HORSE commander. “The mission will take years, but our team helped to fundamentally change the posture in which the Department of Defense will conduct warfare.”

An ongoing mission, Airmen assigned to stateside RED HORSE units are conducting six-month rotations to restore the airfield in Guam.
“We left and the next rotation came in, and picked up the baton right where we left it, and continued that momentum,” said Balskus.

During their deployment, 823d RED HORSE Airmen helped to construct part of an airfield and an apron - used to park, unload, load, refuel and board passengers.

Some of the difficulties the team faced included erecting new structures and clearing 80 years worth of overgrown vegetation in an area surrounded by miles of water. That didn’t stop them, said Senior Airman Marc Vassar, an 823d RED HORSE pavement and equipment construction journeyman.

“We completed two huge sections, and the next rotation is going to work on another,” said Vassar.

Staff Sgt. Tyler Myers, fleet management analysis non-commissioned officer in charge for the 823d, explained the experience provided the opportunity to learn how to set up a new squadron and a contemporary management section.

Myers noted that while there are always ways to improve, the team put in a lot of effort to execute the mission.

“We were always staying late making sure that they got what needed to be done that day,” he added.

The 823d is one of only four active duty RED HORSE units in the Air Force. In addition to the active duty squadrons, there are a number of Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve RED HORSE units.

Over the next few years, the RED HORSE teams will continue the mission, and Balskus added, the 823d will likely return to Guam for future deployments.

“One day we will rotate back and take another turn at it,” Balskus said. “It’s a team effort.”