HORSHAM, Pa. – With the shift in mission at the 111th Attack Wing from A-10 Thunderbolt II to the remotely piloted MQ-9 Reaper, there are those in the community who are sometimes surprised that the Biddle Air National Guard Base is still open for business.
Then drill weekend hits and the base population swells to more than 1,000, with 13 111th Attack Wing units and units from the Army Reserve and Army National Guard conducting training on base. That’s when it becomes clear – Biddle Air National Guard Base is operational.
One unit, in particular, has remained ready to deploy in support of state and federal missions at a moment’s notice while also assisting the base civil engineering with maintenance and upgrades to its infrastructure. That unit is the 201st Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer, or RED HORSE.
“RED HORSE provides a self-sustaining engineer force for the Department of Defense and the state of Pennsylvania that provides heavy construction and special capabilities,” said Lt. Col. James D. Kash, 201st RED HORSE Det. 1. commander. “The unit maintains a high state of readiness in order to be prepared to respond and potentially deploy within 24-72 hours for local, state and federal missions, disaster response and national emergencies.”
RED HORSE Det. 1 was established in April 2008 and has deployed internationally multiple times. The unit deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2009 and 2014 and in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel/Inherent Resolve from September 2019 to July 2020. The unit has also supported projects in Germany, Guatemala, Guam and Lithuania.
Significant state-level missions the unit has supported include an activation in September 2011 for flood relief in Harrisburg and in November 2012 to deal with the after-effects of Hurricane Irene. The unit has deployed as part of the Pennsylvania Joint Task Force supporting presidential inaugurations in 2009 and 2013.
“Most of the construction work we do here on base, in the community and in our training deployments is focused on maintaining our readiness and developing our Airmen, both technically in their skill sets, and preparing them as leaders,” said Kash.
The RED HORSE team, easily identified by their red caps featuring a logo of a red stallion operating a bulldozer, has multiple construction projects in various stages ongoing at Biddle ANG Base and regionally at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey.
“Our big project at Biddle is building a refueler KSPAN, which is prefabricated structure that can be used for multiple purposes and addresses a key training need for us — rapid construction in a deployed environment,” said Kash. “We’re also working on some paving projects and flight line lighting here, and a bunch of projects at Fort Dix, McGuire Air Base and Lakehurst.”
Rapid and deployable is in their name, and RED HORSE regularly takes its show on the road to assist NATO allies and partners and to other international locations.
“We’re preparing for a training mission next summer in Lithuania where we will construct a pre-engineered multipurpose warehouse building in Lithuania,” Kash said. “Over the years, we’ve done projects there and in Guatemala, Guam, Germany, just to name a few.”
RED HORSE, Det. 1 provides the military with a heavy construction capability, including the specialized engineering capabilities of water well drilling, small-scale explosive demolition, quarry operations, concrete/asphalt batch plant operations, concrete/asphalt paving, materials testing, large expedient facility erection, and the installation of specialized assets such as aircraft shelters, dome shelters, clamshells, and expanded shelters.
“We have specialties in the unit that run the gamut of construction skills, from carpentry to welding to plumbing, you name it,” Kash said. “We currently have a demand for heavy equipment operators and vehicle maintenance personnel.”
When asked what he would say about the unit that would entice a potential recruit to join the unit, Kash said: “We prefer to let our work and our reputation do the talking for us. RED HORSE Airmen have a rich legacy of coming through in the clutch for Pennsylvania and our country. That legacy will continue.”