203rd RED HORSE Squadron

MISSION
To support combat air power worldwide, RED HORSE provides the Commander of Air Force Forces (COMAFFOR) a dedicated, flexible, airfield and base heavy construction and repair capability.  RED HORSE also provides many special capabilities that allow the COMAFFOR to move and support missions as the air order of battle dictates.  The standard RED HORSE capability consists of 404 personnel (engineers and support personnel) with approximately 1,000 short-tons of vehicles, heavy construction, and support equipment.  This organic support allows the unit to operate independently for extended periods of time until normal supply channels are established.  In addition to the standard capability, the RED HORSE special capabilities consist of approximately 2,200 short-tons, which can be tailored to meet specific construction and repair requirements.  When operating in a higher threat, non-permissive environment outside a forward operating base or collocated operating base, the RED HORSE commander, in coordination with the area commander (i.e., combat arms land force commander), determines additional security requirements based on operational risk.

HISTORY
In January 1985, the Air National Guard civil engineering program expanded through the formation of the 203rd Civil Engineering Flight Heavy Repair (CEFHR) which was activated at Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach, Virginia.  Three weeks earlier the 202nd Civil Engineering Squadron Heavy Repair (CESHR) unit was activated in Starke, Florida.  The two units, the 203rd CEFHR and the 202nd CESHR, make one complete squadron, the 202nd CESHR.

The 203rd CEFHR represents a major element in the Air Force RED HORSE program.  The 203rd CEFHR represents one of only six such units in the Air Force whose primary capability consists of recovery, repair and maintenance of bombed or otherwise damaged military air bases and facilities.

OPERATIONS
In 1999, members of the 203rd CEFHR deployed in support of Operation Southern Watch in Southwest Asia and participated in Exercise Northern Viking in Iceland.

In April 2003, the combined squadron was federally activated for the first time in its history when it was deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

In August through October 2004, the 203rd RHS and its sister unit the 202nd RHS, provided support across Florida in response to Hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Ivan.

In 2006, the 203rd RHS and 202nd RHS deployed for a seven-month mission supporting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The mission required the members to facilitate more than 130 construction projects as the lead element for the 557th Expeditionary RHS and the 1st Expeditionary RED HORSE Group.

In 2011, members deployed to Qatar, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and UAE

In 2016, members deployed to Qatar, Kuwait, Jordon, Iraq, Syria, and UAE

In 2021, members deployed to Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi, Jordon, Syria

UNIT  PATCH

 

 

 

 

 

 

LINEAGE
Jan 1985 – 203rd Civil Engineering Flight federally recognized
15 Oct 1988 – All units redesignated Civil Engineering Squadron, RED HORSE
8 Mar 1989 – All units redesignated RED HORSE Civil Engineering Squadron
1 Mar 1994 – All units redesignated RED HORSE Squadron
Mar 2004 – All ANG units redesignated as RED HORSE Squadrons.

STATIONS
Camp Pendleton, Virginia Beach, Virginia

 HONORS

203rd RHS, 2001 Flight Crash

Every year, on March 3rd, Airmen of the Virginia Air National Guard’s 203rd RED HORSE Squadron (RHS), 192nd Wing, along with their family, friends and the entire Virginia National Guard community remember and commemorate those killed in the worst peacetime aviation disaster in National Guard History. Eighteen members of the 203rd RHS were killed alongside three aviators from the Florida Army National Guard’s Detachment 1, 171st Aviation Battalion when the C-23 Sherpa they were flying in crashed in a cotton field near Unadilla, Georgia, March 3, 2001.

The 203rd RHS members were returning home after completing a two-week military construction project at Hurlburt Field, Florida. It was the worst loss of life in the Virginia National Guard since World War II.

In 2021, family members and friends of the fallen Airmen and Soldiers gathered at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, Virginia, to mark the 20th anniversary of the tragedy.  It was the first memorial ceremony the squadron has hosted since 2016 – past ceremonies were held annually.  In keeping with tradition, Col Stock Dinsmore, 192nd Mission Support Group commander, officiated the event as he had in years past.  Col Dinsmore was a member of the 203rd RHS for more than 21 years and served more than four years as the squadron’s commander.

Col Dinsmore said he remembered the fallen Airmen and the events of that day in 2001 but wanted to focus on the significance of recognizing March 3, 2020, years later.  “Normally, 20 years is associated with the completion of a military career; there aren’t many people still serving in the Virginia National Guard, or probably still serving in general, who were a part of the unit that day,” Col Dinsmore said.  “And as there become fewer members for our new Airmen to ask questions to, to hear the stories… how do you inspire that connection with others in the future?”

Retired Col Thomas Turlip, 203rd RED HORSE commander in 2001, also attended and reflected on the day of the tragedy and the events that followed.  He called the 30,000-square-foot memorial site a “labor of love.”

“I made a promise to the families that we would not forget, that we would always remember those guys,” Col Turlip said.  “One of the former 203rd RHS members came up with this concept you see in front of you right here.  We had an enormous fundraising activity go on… and every RED HORSE squadron, active duty, reserve and guard, all built here what you see.”

The 203rd RHS is currently commanded by Lt Col Jeffrey E Getz, who took command from Col Dinsmore in April 2018. The unit provides a highly mobile civil engineering response force to support contingency operations worldwide.

203rd RED HORSE Airmen lost in the crash:

• Senior Master Sgt. James Beninati of Virginia Beach, Virginia
• Tech. Sgt. Paul Blancato of Norfolk, Virginia
• Master Sgt. Ernest Blawas of Virginia Beach, Virginia
• Tech. Sgt. Andrew H. Bridges of Chesapeake, Virginia
• Senior Master Sgt. Eric Bulman of Virginia Beach, Virginia
• Tech. Sgt. Paul Cramer of Norfolk, Virginia
• Master Sgt. Michael East of Parksley, Virginia
• Tech. Sgt. Ronald Elkin of Norfolk, Virginia
• Tech. Sgt. James Ferguson of Newport News, Virginia
• Tech. Sgt. Randy Johnson of Emporia, Virginia
• Staff Sgt. Mathrew Kidd of Hampton, Virginia
• Senior Master Sgt. Michael Lane of Moyock, North Carolina
• Master Sgt. Edwin Richardson of Virginia Beach, Virginia
• Master Sgt. Dean Shelby of Virginia Beach, Virginia
• Tech. Sgt. John Sincavage of Chesapeake, Virginia
• Tech. Sgt. Gregory Skurupey of Gloucester, Virginia
• Tech. Sgt. Richard Summerell of Franklin, Virginia
• Maj. Frederick Watkins of Virginia Beach, Virginia
Florida Army National Guard Soldiers lost in the crash:
• Chief Warrant Officer 4 Johnny W. Duce of Orange Park, Florida
• Chief Warrant Officer 2 Eric P. Larson of Land-O-Lakes, Florida
• Staff Sgt. Robert F. Ward Jr. of Lakeland, Florida