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Postby Wayland Davis on Tue Sep 29, 2009 9:52 pm



Prior to and during a war there is much thought given to prepare troops for the worst and hoping for the very best results be achieved. Tasking individuals from different bases then to deploy them for a team effort that would suggest and seem to be the proper method on an initial approach seeking a better solution, while also pre-planning projects with unknown difficulty, as well, before any of this had happened, but surely not afterward. Envisages do often tend to make a case for preparedness, if the state of mind is backed up with suitable reactions, which can produce successes comparable to the stated objectives.

Problems can and do arise when a plan is incomplete of the details or any factors not well thought out are toss-ups left to the design and random occurrences to decide the fate of such a success or degrees of failure. War plans often tend to go awry as soon as the battle begins so-is-it with the development of programs and preplanned to bring forth an organizational structure to accomplish mission support during a period of combat. With poorly trained and inexperienced troops deployed in-theater to fill in the blanks being accommodating as possible, and with the necessity for maintaining positive controls and adequate supervision to meet or exceed at all tasking requirements.

Rarely, does anyone get everything done correctly or to have pre-identified their own shortcomings, to within a degree of certainty, to account for all possible shortfalls surely any arising from unexpected problem areas. Those all identified that could help eliminate deficiencies, when it came to the choices made for the selection of the personnel tasked with the responsibilities to carry out the plan without exceptions or too avoid any time delays in hitting the ground running, and having everything needed and necessary to be on hand.

Having the vehicles and heavy equipment set aside available to begin an engineering project thousands of miles away, already delivered at the selected site, consistent with the original plan it done without any deviation or critical omissions, which most often is overlooked preventing start up so soon upon an arrival at the site location. That was something that plagued the earlier original group of engineers in the 1950s era. “SCARWAF” was a quick thrown together operation that was neglected both in principle and direct support by the U.S. Army and the newly created U.S. Air Force.

The command leadership tossed their brass hats back and forth across the table without taking any personal acceptance of responsibility for or being a bellwether of structured applications not so well determined to make things work for the better as the takeover transition had progressed. The circle of in efficacious attitudes lingered much too long at various command levels without giving any direction or compromise. The troops affected were left to their own devices to work out the kinks and deliver on the promise that somehow-some-way those issues would be addressed and the mission accomplished. It was not for a lack of desire to commit to the challenges, but along the way obstacles got in the way that was proven to be unreasonable and too difficult for any individuals to overcome. A final solution was to pair the men of “SCARWAF” with a larger civilian contractor element to realize the missing quotient of possibilities to deliver on the original idea for self-sufficiency in support of preplanned military construction activities.

Eventually, from the continuing breakaway efforts well underway, to rid the Air Force of any remaining Army influences, and an overhaul of the AF personnel classification system in the 1960s through attrition did away with the rank of “Warrant Officer” in the Air Force, and the new ratings of E-8, Senior Master Sergeant, and E-9, Chief Master Sergeant enlisted rank replaced it. It was just one more step taken to purge the Army Air Corps short, but also an attainable identity image. Even the Air Force dress uniforms worn in the late 1950s, although blue in color, mirrored the Army’s tailor cut of the “Ike Jacket.” The term: “Buck Sergeant” turned to Airman First Class (E-4) while the Air Force was still searching for its own identity, and not a moment too soon.

In 1973, it was obvious to the educated eye that the previous “SCARWAF” military effort and its civilian counterpart did; however, construct a huge amount of square footage by the large number of standing upright buildings left on the Korean airbases horizon, and concrete airfields were constructed at the bases throughout South Korea. These buildings were top of the line for that era and were mostly Quonset hut type units. A Quonset hut is a low profile prefabricated portable hut having a semicircular roof of corrugated metal that curves down to form walls. Placed in multi-activity compounds these types of buildings were predominate and used for multiple purposes as they were adaptable to various configurations and usages.

The Quonset was ideal for military use as they could be erected quickly and were almost maintenance free. The open design floor plan allowed for office, maintenance, housing, and storage space without modification or interruption to such activities required within a rear echelon troop garrison. Cost per unit was low and getting out of the harsh elements of the Korean winters was possible providing an enclosed environment with a low profile, which reduced the exposure to high wind and snow. Space oil heaters added some warmth in winter that allowed for the ideal comfort level in the zone for personnel assigned to the rear.

A similar type gable roof, low profile prefabricated metal building; also was used for similar purposes. These were sturdy units that could be taken down and relocated just as quickly. Both types of buildings were anchored to a concrete slab. In the original #800 area, of Osan Air Base, the very same units were used in 1975, as Headquarters 554th CESHR command section, maintenance shops, and the orderly room. These units were still structurally sound and usable after 20 years of being in-service many were still as reliability, and each unit had received some major cost savings effectiveness.

It was one of these same circa 1950 era prefab metal buildings that were disassembled at the District, Corps of Engineers, Seoul, South Korea compound area that provided for the advanced party of Detachment 1, 554th CESHR personnel with their first multi-shops work areas upon an arrival back in South Korea in April 1973. A crew of 13 RED HORSEMEN arrived on site, disassembled the siding, then the roofing, and finally the rib support columns. All total it took just seven hours of work for the men to completely disassemble the building, and pack it up for truck delivery back to Osan Air Base.

Versatility and longevity had been realized from the constant use and reuse of an asset it was both prudent and cost-effective. Much of the same engineering activities had been; likewise, done over the many years of the U.S. forces remaining in South Korea for such a long period of time. That was about to change, and the types of newer buildings would change also as the war in Southeast Asia regressed and retrograded military assets would make their way back to bases located within PACAF.

The modernization of the South Korean American bases would for the first time in many years; 20 years in fact, get the benefit of receiving Southeast Asian (SEA) pre-engineered metal buildings much larger and sturdy, and had the real feel of a steel handler’s handy work when again RED HORSEMEN troops got to reassemble them. These were 5,000 square feet spans bolt-anchored onto substantial concrete foundations. A copious volume of war readiness assets were being removed from one SEA region then transported to another for military support in the defense of South Korea, and the Pacific Rim area. Tactical assets like AM-2 aluminum runway matting and revetment materials were also salvageable and relocated to the same bases used once more to harden the airfields.

The specific reason for the Headquarters, 554 CESHR remaining longer in Thailand until January 1976, was to package up and crate for shipment volumes of these previously used retrograde buildings and other engineering assets obtained from South Vietnam and Thailand’s, Royal Thai Air Force Bases and Royal Thai Naval Air Station. The same hands of the troops used to disassemble these assets were in some cases the same ones that previously had used them as projects serving the continued support for an air mission for the Military Advisory Command, Vietnam (MACV.)

Once this retrograde task was completed, Headquarters, 554th CESHR received a movement order to officially relocate to Osan Air Base, South Korea. The people responsible for the retrograde effort while in Thailand in the year 1975, were some of the same personnel who had used these very same assets in construction, and were all completed projects, but a year or so earlier. Other personnel would have the distinction of working with these same assets at all three locations. There was a greater necessity for preserving re-locatable military assets and pre-engineered metal buildings.

It was a cost-effective means by the unusual care taken to preserve the asset from damage knowing that some of the same troops on the receiving end had to erect used items for projects for the squadron’s 10 million dollar construction program in South Korea. Construction was beginning to change the skyline look of the American Forces, Korean Air Bases. With a mixture of Masonry block buildings (CMU) and Pre-engineered metal buildings the landscape gradually began to resemble an earlier improvement effort needed and necessary as slowly the Quonset hut change-out phase had begun. The new construction of Airman, Officer, and Transit quarters additions all used the SEA modularlux dormitories that would make a huge progressive gain providing for living quarters for the many additional permanent party personnel increases assigned to South Korea. This 2.3 million dollar construction project was one of the most involved single housing projects undertaken by military troops of any RED HORSE Squadron.

Living and working in South Korea was beginning to improve greatly, and it has continued that way for the same 35 years RED HORSE has maintained its local dormancy and control over the progress made, and in doing so are fully recognized as professionals who stood at the ready for meeting the challenges of the new more modern era of the defining times. But as modernization progressed and quality of life improved also did the need for making all things better, and the projects built from SEA retrograded assets in the 70s and the 80s; as each project rapidly progressed also did the desire for amenities, and other things to keep pace with tomorrow’s needs and wants.

Throughout the 90s and 2000 years steady working to meet current troop level requirements, project needs are still as demanding as they were before, and the previous progress having been made by now; these standing structures had once more been removed from previous sites, and are being replaced with high rises and permanent stone and steel complexes. Work is often contracted out locally to civilians as the 554th RED HORSE left South Korea in April 2008, and history begins anew with designs on combat readiness and training exercises’ for mission support challenges of combined combat forces from Anderson Air Force Base, Guam

However, the monumental tasking as those were undertaken; of these often complex and many other types of various construction duties and responsibilities each were done to the normal satisfaction of higher command; no longer was the engineering capabilities of the CE troops in doubt or questioned by anyone. Civil Engineering has come a long way in adapting to the complexities of the time-designs and better materials are now available for stretching the imagination of the graduate engineer designers, and for achieving job development skills for Airmen and NCOs have kept pace with usage of the materials and equipment un-thought-of in the earlier days, of enlisted personnel skills development.

Beginning with the OJT method of doing things only with hand tools and manual labor support in the field that got Prime BEEF working in the early war years of 1965-72 Vietnam. It was the best of all training environment to help spur advancement and build self-confidence. The individual teams supported each other and they learned from assisting in the total project effort since the luxury of having fewer specialists required other specialist to pitch in and produce rapid results. “Learning while earning” a caveat from a supervisor that meant: “Well don’t just stand there--get busy doing something productive.”

Prime BEEF personnel deployed in-theater 1965 through 1972 they came back to their stateside base both able to lead and follow--get the hell out of the way was not an option. The rewards of such tangible training opportunities were immeasurable for once career Airmen got a taste of their career field and of those working around them they desired more. With a taste of a good thing comes wanting more, and soon to follow was months of field training in October 1965, the RED HORSE program, Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Expeditionary, with 6 each deployed 400 manned units that took construction to the next higher level for the military craftsmen and craftswomen who is serving in these units that received the technical training and heavy equipment needed and necessary for mission accomplishment, and with the same desire to excel in the “means and methods” to adapt to the battlefield environment.

As self-sustaining and eager to get to work the “originals” carved out a success story of many achievements as they encountered difficulties one can only imagine but through it all both men and women have step forward through the years of struggle and have become the best of the best--these Air Force combat engineers that they are and will become. It was a tough row to hoe back in the Army-Air Corps days, from which there came the “SCARWAF” a mighty contribution they had made in South Korea while also serving with the new Air Force it made a separate branch in 1947, but from the very beginning to the current missions performed in Iraq and Afghanistan while again being at war the emphasizes are on quality and quantity. To achieve these two endeavors proper job experience is required and demanded, but each task done right has added another grain of skill and job performance that originated of necessity, and given with an attitude.

It took much longer; 61 years perhaps, to achieve the steady and constant level of changing job knowledge, i.e., computer, laser, satellite, and automated metal panel forming machines all these gadgets and leaps forward in equipment performance are all better made improvements, and a much better choice selection for the best of all reasons for assisting these outstanding troops to advance to the current level of accomplishment as engineering is taken to the next level, and so it will become a continuing chapter of the legacy once manually gained then advanced forward one small step at the time. Can it be that today’s advances available for the career minded engineers are made by future leaps and bounds? It seems so to the more attentive older Air Force guys of yesterday. The mission continues….To The Horse!

AUTHOR: Wayland B. Davis USAF CMSGT (Ret.)

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Prime BEEF: In Conciliation with SMSGT Bruce Swafford
Wayland Davis
Posts: 140
Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 7:17 pm
Location: Freeport, FL

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