Highly mobile. Self-sustaining. Ready for deployment. These are the hallmarks of the RED HORSE (Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operations Repair Squadron Engineer) Squadrons (RHS) of the U.S. Air Force. The same could also be said for the two new Terex E225P counterflow drum mix plants recently purchased for the 820th and 554th RHS units, making them a perfect match for this branch of the Air Force.
At a moment’s notice, the four active-duty and 15 Guard Reserve RHS units can be deployed to assist with combat efforts in hostile environments. The mission of these self-sustaining squadrons is to provide the Air Force a highly mobile civil engineering response force. During combat operations, it is the RHS that constructs new infrastructure and performs heavy damage repair of infrastructure in order to carry out a successful mission. When not abroad on active duty, these units construct and maintain the infrastructure at the home base.
The work for members of this engineering force is personal, and the projects they complete can mean the difference between life and death. Sgt. Dennis Hagglund, asphalt plant subject matter expert and equipment operator for the 820th RHS based in Las Vegas, NV, recalls one airport construction project in Afghanistan that holds special meaning.
Prior to the 820th RHS constructing an 8,600-foot-long runway in a remote part of Afghanistan, critically wounded would first have to be evacuated to Bagram Air Field by helicopter before being transported to Ramstein Air Base, which delayed medical attention. “We constructed the ramps, taxiways and runway with our own equipment, so that the C17s could land to evacuate wounded directly to Ramstein,” says Sgt. Hagglund. “It was definitely worth the blood, sweat and tears.”
When the unit says self-sustaining, they mean it. They have the equipment, personnel and expertise to do anything from blasting and excavation to material production and paving. With regards to its asphalt operations, these units will blast and crush the aggregate, develop and produce the required mix design for a road or runway, and compact the asphalt mat.
Given time, these units will clear an impassable jungle and construct a passable road network, if that’s the mission. In order to accomplish these assignments, they must have the right equipment at their disposal.
The right plant
For making asphalt mix and training other squadrons on plant operation, the 820th RHS had, until recently, an outdated mid-1980s vintage asphalt plant. Its sister unit, the 554th stationed at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, had no asphalt plant but was embarking on a new infrastructure project at Northwest Field. It was time for a change, so both squadrons had at their disposal flexible and mobile asphalt plants equipped with the latest technology.
This year, they took possession of and installed two new Terex E225P super-portable asphalt plants from Terex Roadbuilding. “Both plants are configured nearly identical with the exception of the control house on the plant for the 820th,” says Mike Rodriguez, district manager for Terex Roadbuilding. The plant at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas will serve as a training center in addition to producing asphalt, so it has a specially built, larger control house to accommodate training classes.
Sgt. Hagglund is one of the officers in charge of training members of other RHS units on how to operate the plant. “We typically have 14 students per class and hold four classes per year,” he says. “We review the plant’s components and calibrations and cover mix design production.” The goal is to have each student familiar with plant operation, so they can make mix in the field.
Some of the people trained to operate the E225P plant in Nevada were from the 554th RHS. Their education is scheduled to be put to use to make asphalt for the roads leading from the base to a regional training center at Northwest Field. “The new Terex plant will support a 10-mile, $727,000 Pacific Regional Training Center (PRTC) road project,” says SSgt Matthew Belmer, U. S. Air Force.