823rd RHS provides expeditionary infrastructure

By Airman 1st Class Rachel Yates 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

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Anybody new to Hurlburt Field is likely to notice a different atmosphere around base: the different uniforms, Air Commandos with different colored berets, and even civil engineer Airmen with red baseball caps.

Wait, red baseball caps?

Hurlburt Field is home to the uniquely-capped Airmen of the 823rd RED HORSE Squadron, one of four active-duty RED HORSE squadrons. The bright hat helps highlight the significant role these Airmen play in deployed locations: they are capable of taking a completely raw piece of land and quickly build it up into a deployed base or functional flight line, providing the ability to sustain U.S. and allied forces.

“RED HORSE as a whole is essentially designed to go and be a self-sustaining unit anywhere in the world,” said Tech. Sgt. Matt Mayfield, the NCO in charge of training and resources with the 823rd RHS. “Basically, we’re what the entire base is, just compressed down into a single squadron.”

RED HORSE has Airmen ranging from carpenters and electricians to security forces and medical personnel, he said. 

RED HORSE units, or Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operations Repair Squadron Engineers, are the Air Force’s heavy construction teams as compared to a standard civil engineer squadron.

“They are more of a maintaining type asset where as we would go somewhere and build it up, then turn it over to them so they then can maintain it,” said Master Sgt. Justin Harper, the superintendent of special capabilities with the 823rd RHS.

RED HORSE Airmen, like our Air Commandos, have the potential to be some of the first with their boots on the ground around the world due to their ability to build an entire base or create an airfield out of nothing. These abilities lead to a high, constant deployment rate.

“We had a team that just returned from a New Horizons Humanitarian Mission in the Dominican Republic,” said Harper.

Three clinics and a school were built on the recent deployment to the Dominican Republic.

“There wasn’t already a clinic in the area so we actually were able to provide them a medical facility,” said Harper.

When the 823rd RHS isn’t across the globe executing our unique mission, they spend their days in garrison training or completing troop training projects, said Mayfield.

Troop training projects offer the best training value before a deployment, Mayfield explained.

These projects entail going to different bases stateside and training for the overseas mission. It’s essential for Airmen to receive hands-on training and get familiarized with the equipment before being tasked with a deployment.

Even with an upcoming deployment some work on Hurlburt Field is in sight as well, such as road repairs and building upgrades, said Harper.

With RED HORSE only having four active-duty squadrons, it’s likely that most Airmen will never experience their distinct presence. Every piece of the puzzle makes RED HORSE unique and it contributes to a strong sense of comradery.

“It’s something bigger than just you as an individual,” said Mayfield. “To be able to take something, whether it’s from scratch or something that’s run down, and think, ‘We built that. There was nothing there before and I was part of that.’ You can’t do that alone.”


Editor's note: The original story can be viewed on the Hurlburt Field website.