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NEWS | Nov. 28, 2023

Exercise Sharpens Virginia Guard Unit’s Expeditionary Skills

By A.J. Coyne, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Virginia National Guard Airmen assigned to the 203rd Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers, 192nd Mission Support Group, 192nd Wing, trained on expeditionary skills during a field training exercise Nov. 2-5.

Over four days, the 203rd Airmen prepared for deployment, set up two operational sites, established a perimeter and conducted security operations.

“As we transition out of the Middle East and look to the next wars, the concept of how we support the Air Force’s mission is changing,” said Maj. Scott Harman, 203rd RED HORSE deputy commander. “We are training to build bases in a contested environment where every Airman will be needed to do tasks outside of their assigned jobs. The training we do now will prepare the Airmen of the Virginia Air National Guard to successfully accomplish those future missions.”     

The 203rd RED HORSE provides mobile civil engineering teams to support contingency and special operations worldwide. They are self-sufficient with rapid response capabilities for independent operations in remote, high-threat environments. They can create or repair runways and erect permanent structures in weeks, from concept and design to engineering and construction.

Senior Master Sgt. Philip McLawhorn, lead inspector for the exercise, said the scenario involved working from two sites “with our headquarters building to simulate what we call the ‘spoke and hub’ method of deployment, where we actually take the unit and separate it based off the engineering tasks that are assigned but still can maintain our self-sufficient capabilities.”

On Nov. 2, they simulated the actual deployment process. Airmen were issued gear and briefed and built up cargo to simulate mobilizing.

The Airmen also conducted chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive response operations and other defensive postures. 
On Nov. 5, they redeployed.

The 203rd last conducted an in-place field exercise about four years ago, before its previous deployment, McLawhorn said.

Since that last exercise, the Air Force has implemented agile combat employment. ACE is an operational concept designed to support joint all-domain operations.

“The idea is to have multicapable Airmen, which means Airmen can do multiple tasks to support any type of Air Force area wherever we go,” McLawhorn said. 

“This training will propel us to be mission-ready when our nation calls,” said Chief Master Sgt. Karl L. Burnell, the 203rd RHS senior enlisted leader. 



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