ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Airmen from the New Mexico Air National Guard's 210ᵗʰ RED HORSE Squadron at Kirtland AFB are supporting the Defense Nuclear Weapon School (DNWS) while receiving valuable training.
In the fall of 2019, members of DNWS started to work with the 210ᵗʰ RED HORSE Squadron and the 58ᵗʰ Training Squadron to help relocate airframe training aids to a DNWS training site on base. Eager to get valuable training hours on their heavy equipment, it wasn't until the RED HORSE team found time in between other missions to make the 'big' moves happen for the schoolhouse.
"Some personnel even came to work on their days off to see these airframes safely moved," said Col. George R. Farfour, DNWS commandant. "This isn't just a 'win-win' for the organizations working on these projects. This is a 'win' for the hundreds of joint service, multinational and interagency students DNWS typically sees in a year who will learn about contamination monitoring on these training aids."
Using a heavy crane, flatbed trailers and all-terrain forklifts, the RED HORSE team moved each of the large training aids safely. The equipment moves demonstrated to other commands on base that this heavy-lift capability is available to them. More importantly, the RED HORSE Airmen renewed critical skills.
"Getting hands-on heavy equipment training while solving real-world problems is a huge benefit to RED HORSE, especially in preparing for our upcoming overseas deployment," said Lt. Col. James C. Willis, commander of the 210ᵗʰ RED HORSE Squadron.
Matt Thompson, DNWS historian, says that with the training aids in place, students will practice contamination monitoring techniques that were employed by military responders and aircrew during Operation TOMODACHI in 2011 – the humanitarian effort that provided relief to Japan after a tsunami damaged the nuclear power plant there.
"Of particular interest to the students are aircraft engines because of their tendency to collect and concentrate even minute amounts of contamination found in the air," he said. "A C-130 transport aircraft engine provided by the 58ᵗʰ TRS will serve as one of those training aids, as well as be a great addition to the UH-1 helicopter airframe training aid."
Once the UH-1 helicopter airframe was unloaded at the DNWS training area, the RED HORSE team and the DTRA Albuquerque motor pool team developed a method of using forklifts and short slings to move the single-ton airframe short distances.
"The UH-1 training aid presented a unique challenge," Thompson said. "It rested on skids and would require wheels to make it less dependent on heavy equipment for movement. Original ground handling wheels would have cost tens of thousands of dollars and were quickly rejected as an option."
DNWS training specialists developed a caster wheel design that could be fabricated for a fraction of the cost.
"To get these caster wheel assemblies built, one of the DNWS training buildings was turned into a fabrication shop by the RED HORSE team," Willis said. "Over the next few weeks, the DNWS team provided all of the material, hardware, cutting and welding supplies needed for the project. Many hours of cutting, hand fitting, welding and grinding were then conducted by our RED HORSE Airmen."
This allowed the RED HORSE team to rotate personnel so everyone could practice steel fabrication skills that will be needed in future deployments. Willis says his Airmen are ready and willing to support anywhere they can, and that he's particularly pleased to assist the schoolhouse.
"Earlier in my career, I had the opportunity to benefit from several DNWS courses, and it is the best training I've had in the military," Willis said. "The 210 RED HORSE is delighted to help out DNWS in any way we can."