Combat Engineers & Hurricane Katrina

Thank you Papa Art...



PRESS RELEASE -- Secretary of the Air Force, Office of Public Affairs


Release No. 030905

September 1, 2005


RED HORSE to the rescue



HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. - Combat engineers capable of rapid deployment into war zones are proving to be effective first responders in bringing aid to areas devastaed by Hurricane Katrina. Members of the 823rd RED HORSE squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla. left early Tuesday morning bound for Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., some of the worst-hit areas in the deadly storm's wake.

An additional 15 military vehicles, loaded with tents, water, supplies and equipment left Wednesday.

"RED HORSE teams are 'deploying', as we speak, to Keesler AFB to bring vital aid to our fellow Airmen," said Col Jim Lyon, commander 823rd RHS. "Our mission is to bring supplies, remove debris and provide safe shelters in conditions that can only be described as complete devastation."

Rescue and relief operations are proving to be challenging as each wave of Airmen encounter new problems. The first team of RED HORSE troops consisted of a 20-person combat engineering team that assessed damage and aligned supplies while literally cutting their way to the base.

"It's hard to imagine, but our people had to literally chainsaw their route to the base," described Col. Lyon. "They found roads impassible and had to hunt for alternate routes. For many paths, they were the first to clear roadways - they made it possible for others to get aid to Keesler."

"Coordinating with local law enforcement and military officials is another tough task as telephone and communications are gone," added the colonel.

Because RED HORSE troops are used to deploying to some of the most austere locations in the world, their convoys are "armed" with all the equipment they might need to complete their mission. Gasoline, shelter, water and food for RED HORSE troops and Keesler Airmen must all be brought in with each wave of manpower.

"Our men and women are completely self-sufficient, and that's vital to sustaining our efforts," said Col. Lyon.

So far, approximately 100 members of the 823rd RED HORSE have left Hurlburt Field for disaster relief operations. Troops still at Hurlburt Field were busy loading an emergency airfield lighting system Wednesday, essential to aircraft operations, while they waited for the chance to do their part.

Staff Sgt. T.J. Manns, an electrical journeyman at the 823rd RHS, and seasoned RED HORSE troop is realistic about what his follow-on team might encounter. After viewing photos and news footage of the area he commented, "You can try to mentally and physically prepare yourself for what you'll see, but I don't think you're ever fully prepared for something like this," he said.

Relief operations are proving emotional to Airmen as many have friends and former co-workers trapped at Keesler AFB. "Our friends are homeless right now," said Sgt Manns as he loaded equipment. "Our job is to help them get back to normal. I want them to know the legendary 823rd RED HORSE is on the way and we're going to do everything we can to get them back into a home."

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"

God bless them! May they be safe in their work!


Yes sir, and may they stay safe. What a dangerous job they are undertaking. I hope everyone appreciates the scope of their mission. Essayons boys!

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"

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