RED HORSE honors loss of founding father

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Benjamin D. Kim
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
The Airmen that stood solemnly, at attention, did not serve in the same time period as retired Brig. Gen. William Thomas Meredith--an old-timer whose glory days were long in the past. Yet, they knew him by the very fact that they donned the signature red hats. The sea of red hat wearing Airmen gathered in formation at the RED HORSE statue and flag for a final goodbye to Meredith as a show of respect and tribute to his contributions to the Air Force.

The 823rd RED HORSE Squadron honored the founder of the U.S. Air Force organization known as RED HORSE (Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers) at Hurlburt Field, Fla., March 1, after Meredith passed away Feb. 20, at the age of 93.

The massive throng of Airmen of 823rd RHS paid tribute to the recent passing of Meredith with a moment of silence and set their squadron flag to half-staff.
"It is his vision, leadership and long-lasting legacy that we're here to celebrate and to honor with a moment of silence," said Lt. Col. Ann Birchard, commander of 823rd RHS, as she addressed her Airmen. "It is with great honor that we offer him a moment of silence."

Being the founding father of RED HORSE served as only the tip of his lasting mark on the Air Force civil engineering organization.

"Meredith was the first RED HORSE group commander when he was put in charge of the 554th and 555th RED HORSE during the Vietnam War", said Staff Sgt. John Reece, pavements and construction operator of 823rd RHS. "From there, he further developed the RED HORSE abilities and spectrum of work, organizational structure and used them to maximum effectiveness."

Meredith's recommendations fostered the creation of more RED HORSE units, and his leadership and reputation, in conjunction with their use, is known well around the civil engineering field, among Army and Air Force alike, Reece explained.

Where other military civil engineering organizations fell short during the Vietnam War, Meredith believed that RED HORSE could succeed.

"With his vision, he created RED HORSE to field the shortfall in Vietnam that the Army could not handle," said Birchard. "It was his leadership that picked the right men, right material and right training to create RED HORSE."

Meredith's memorial did not simply serve as a tribute to his contributions to the Air Force, but as a reminder to the Airmen of what they are a part of and what they will continue to do for years to come.

"We understand that we inherited a rich heritage and legacy bred by those who had the vision to build RED HORSE," said Senior Master Sgt. Joel Shepherd, first sergeant of 823rd RHS. "The RED HORSE has a unique mission and is very proud of its amazing and continuous accomplishments ever since its inception."

Meredith's vision, accomplishments and contributions are represented, in small part, by the red hats RED HORSE is known for.

"Meredith is the reason we have our red hats," Reece said. "In the late 70's, he felt there was a need to distinguish ourselves from regular civil engineering units and have our own identifying mark."

The hats are a constant reminder of what RED HORSE Airmen of the past did and the future endeavors they will embark on.

"The RED HORSE trail blazers have passed on to us the fortunate responsibility to maintain and add-on to this legendary reputation," Shepherd said. "Honoring the founding father exemplifies the pride our current RED HORSE warriors have embraced."