219th RED HORSE support global operations in Slovenia

About 35 members of the 219th RED HORSE Squadron loaded onto a C-130 in June for a flight to Slovenia, a roughly 14-hour trip on a commercial flight.

Many of the airmen on the trip had never deployed before and some had never left the U.S.

It’s what the Guard can be called to do, “to go out and do good things in the world,” said Master Sgt. Robert Johnson. “It reinforces why we train and the reasons for those lessons we try to teach you at home.”

The mission for the volunteer deployment was to finish the renovation of a 150-year-old horse barn that once houses Lipizzaner stallions. They were retrofitting the barn so it could serve as the central range control center for regional and NATO exercises.

They also renovated barracks and added insulation to make them more energy-efficient.

MTANG trains in Slovenia

Members of the 219th RED HORSE hang a light over the newly built room to insulate a water tank, June 14, 2017, Bile Barn near Postojna, Slovenia. The Bile barn was used to house the Lipizzaner stallions and today will be used as range control for American forces a couple of times a year. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Staff Sgt. Lindsey Soulsby)

The work will “enhance the capability of the facility,” Dehn said.

The Colorado Guard is Slovenia’s partner in the U.S. Defense Department’s State Partnership Program and they started the construction in 2015.

The area is home to NATO’s Immediate Response, a multinational exercise designed to enhance regional stability and improve interoperability among partner nations. The 2016 exercise was held in late September and included more than 1,900 troops from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The 219th airmen were based in Postojna, a southwestern Slovenia town with a population of about 9,000.

The trip was a benefit for the 219th, Dehn said, because “it’s a way to train our troops in their specialties outside of a weekend.”

MTANG trains in Slovenia

Senior Airman Garth Mitchell, 219th RED HORSE Squadron structures journeyman, carries a roll of insulation to the attic of a barracks June, 9, 2017, near Postojna, Slovenia. RED HORSE insulated, created a catwalk and added lighting as a part of Exercise Related Construction. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Staff Sgt. Lindsey Soulsby)

For the Guard, the mission is an opportunity to improve facilities in Postojna, but also to build community relations in the region, Dehn said.

The group worked through liaison and did some contracting with local vendors for construction supplies. According to the 219th, a total of $40,029.58 was spent locally using 2,520 man hours to upgrade the Bile barn and Postojna barracks.

It’s also a chance to look into future projects, so they used the opportunity to see if the Slovenian defense ministry had other needs that the 219th could support in the future.

Airman sees the world

Airman 1st Class Michael Wisherd, 219th RED HORSE Squadron airfields apprentice, measures a piece of sheet rock June 14, 2017 at the Bile barn near Postojna, Slovenia. Wisherd was helping build a wall to insulate a water tank for Exercise Immediate Response to occur later in 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Staff Sgt. Lindsey Soulsby)

“The airmen definitely enjoyed the town, the county,” Dehn said. “I guarantee if they had another opportunity to go back there, they’d go.”

Slovenia was new to the entire group, Dehn and Johnson said, and the airmen had opportunities for exploring and sightseeing. Some made it to Lake Bled and others made a short trip to Croatia.

“It was a great cultural experience,” Dehn said.

For the airmen of the 219th it was chance to see first hand how their work can affect others.

“They’re a small, little unit, but can have a huge impact,” Dehn said. “You don’t sometimes see the bigger impact. It helps them see the impact and reinforce why we train. I think they felt like they had an effect on the community.”