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REDHORSE Opportunity


Talk with one of the many bright young career-oriented NCOs serving with any of the RED HORSE Squadrons and you'll immediately get the impression that there'll be no skill shortages in tomorrow's fully-qualified and capable enlisted supervisors and superintendents. From the conversation, the pride of accomplishment comes across from doing it oneself and the satisfaction felt in producing a superior completed project. They're preparing themselves today for carrying the Air Force well into the 1990s.

Often it's said: "Maybe by those who have never dared to achieve success or risk failure, that no project is a monument to one individual's effort, but was instead a team effort from all in the organization." Granted, it takes all Air Force specialties in Civil Engineering to program, design, plan, and supply material in preparing for the construction effort, but those taskings right up to the point of building can be changed, modified, and reviewed to catch, and hopefully eliminate, mistakes. The project manager, usually a technical or staff sergeant with as little as five to seven years in the Air Force, cannot afford to make mistakes by not following the design or specifications. He is expected to lead and manage large RED HORSE projects in excess of $200,000 funded cost. Although that figure has been adjusted upward over the past 20 years from $35,000 in the mid-sixties, the awesome feeling of responsibility remains, never-the-less, for these selected individuals who are given an opportunity to excel. It is bestowed upon them by the confidence of the senior leadership, who possess a willingness and desire to take charge, coordinate effort, and make schedules affected by weather, equipment breakdown, and material delays.

Project managers, however, do not stand alone. They have the solid backing of the shop supervisor, superintendents, and chief of operations; still the project manager is the single person dedicated full time to constructing projects correctly, within cost, and on schedule. The project manager's thoughts are consistent with daily actions and are full of the many management techniques learned in professional military education for directing and controlling the efforts of others. But will the people assigned to the project daily follow the manager's lead and direction? They will if the project manager demonstrates a professional attitude, shows competence in the skill level of their Air Force specialty, exhibits personal pride, and sets acceptable and obtainable standards to follow. This formula worked for me as a young, newly promoted Staff Sergeant sent to Na Trang Air Base, Vietnam, RVN, in February 1966 with Air Training Command, PRIME BEEF Team #10. The team was sent to Southeast Asia to construct critically needed dormitory buildings to house the soon-to-come major build up of forces. Our teams, like all PRIME BEEF deployed teams before and after, did not have the solid benefit of having first worked together. Our selection was based solely on skill and grade needed. We were all capable but did not have much construction experience on that large a scale. However, the war was enough incentive for learning, aided by a 12-hour, 7-day work week under constant supervision of a very few knowledgeable NCOs.

That would soon change due to a program beginning in the Air Force called RED HORSE that would help to eliminate war readiness training shortfalls for thousands of today's civil engineering members. It began in December 1965 and is still going strong today. The PRIME BEEF team members of yesterday could look for answers only to the most senior of civil engineering experienced NCOs for the how-to instructions and job assignments. Thanks to RED HORSE squadrons, past and present, our younger and more junior NCOs are now technically capable and can share in the responsibilities of project management. This adds depth and manpower flexibility within civil engineering to provide major peacetime initiatives and a solid readiness development of our forces. We are much better prepared today for meeting tomorrow's mission challenges with our daily development of the required war skills and craftspersonship necessary to win while we have the time to prepare. We stand ready if and when, we are ever called for contingency forces beddown or bare base development.

RED HORSE squadrons enhance other learned civil engineering maintenance and repair skills, providing an excellent opportunity to work independent of home stations, promoting self reliance and the chance to work in a variety of environments and geographical locations worldwide. In my own career, much to my dismay, after mastering RED HORSE construction techniques learned while serving many months assigned to South East Asia, I was assigned to a RED HORSE squadron located in Korea. This created a greater mental challenge for me, requiring a change in the types of permanent construction from theater of operations wooden type structures to pre engineered PASCO or Butler metal relocatable buildings. Never before was I concerned about frost heave or the placement of a non-frost susceptible barrier under foundations and slabs. This assignment broadened my professional knowledge about cold weather construction, allowing for development of techniques permitting year-round placement of concrete. Tent covering and heat provided by base-assigned aircraft Herman Nelson (H-1) heaters was the answer for Cement Masonry Unit (CMU) block laying. A concrete additive, calcium chloride, prevented the concrete from freezing and progress on projects continued 12 months a year with maximum manpower utilization. Learning to erect a metal structure, installing insulation and finishing the interior was another chance to broaden my structural knowledge. I learned new terms and methods that began with an inventory of PACAF assets called simply retro-grade pre-engineered (PEB) metal buildings. These buildings were previously erected in Vietnam, Thailand, and finally Korea. The construction program documents normally selected the size and type oŁ metal building, sight unseen. With the handling and split shipments to other PACAF bases, the TCN inventory listing did not indicate parts of a so-called "complete" building were missing or were located at other bases, or that the parts were being stored outside, unprotected, causing severe corrosion control problems. Missing building parts were locally manufactured, the original side and roof panels were patched, and a connecting lobby made of CMU block with a facing of brick veneer was constructed. All this produced high quality, professionally completed facilities similar to the recreation center at Osan Air Base, ROK.

Many examples of outstanding worldwide achievements by RED HORSE people are continuing daily and these historical events are evolutionary processes being perfected using the proper mixing between mobility, survivability and proficiency in skill knowledge for obtaining the capability to survive and operate through field training with the need to construct facilities, systems, utilities, and runways in a hostile environment. Like the many career professionals that have passed before me, another chapter in my lifetime is now ending. I can look back proudly after 30 years in civil engineering to the days as an airman and remember when I was only allowed to carry the civilian workers tool box and always the clean up specialist. Times and people change, sometimes for the better, and the military professionals of today expect much more for they are eager, qualified and capable airmen and NCOs doing the jobs earlier in their careers. I suppose my early training on transporting tool boxes and job site clean up made me anxious and eager for knowledge - remember, there were no career development courses (CDC); skill upgrade tests were made from civil engineering manuals, publications, and regulations. This involved a lot of research so I suppose all of this effort was the very beginning of my character building. This method of learning did almost nothing for perfecting my Air Force speciality skills. RED HORSE airmen of today are leading the way, doing for themselves and standing proud -- the way it should be. I'm extremely proud for having been a part of it by serving with the 823 CESHR, Bein Hoa AB, RVN, and 554th CESHR in Thailand and Korea. A total of eight years working with the best officers, airmen, and NCOs in civil engineering.

Finally, to complete my active duty career, I'm proud to be back with the 823 CESHR, Hurlburt Field, Florida, which just recently went through a TAC Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI). The HORSE proved again that "excellent ratings" are possible in all areas. Note a sense of loyalty for this, too, shows character.

Now, back to the saying that individuals don't build monuments -- they certainly do -- for as long as the one responsible individual was you and, as project manager, you gave to that project your absolute best. Old memories surface from time to time and I recall a construction project worked at Bein Hoa Air Base, Vietnam, 18 years ago called Project Concrete Sky. The task was erecting and hardening wonder arches for ramp aircraft parking protection. The 823 CESHR was the first RED HORSE military squadron to completely concrete cover and cap a shelter. There's much that can be said about being the first; so to preserve history and mark that achievement, we as a crew did something I had never allowed before or since. My concrete finishing crew proudly placed our hand prints, the date, and signatures in concrete right there on top of that aircraft shelter located at Bein Hoa AB, RVN.

Personal achievements are lasting monuments to many individual talents and some are still standing throughout the world today. As long as their story is told or a conversation begins with "I was in charge," there always will be. Farewell.

CMSgt Wayland B. Davis, 823 CESHR/DO, Hurlburt Field, FL