Airmen at 819th RED HORSE preparing to deploy

Members of the 819th RED HORSE Squadron are preparing to deploy once again.

Of the roughly 240 airmen assigned to the unit at Malmstrom Air Force Base, about 175 are set to deploy this spring for about six months.

Capt. David Geaney, the director of operations/logistics manager for the 819th, and Staff Sgt. Laura Schilling, the non-commissioner officer in charge of supply, said that these months before the deployment are the busiest for their section within the unit.

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Schilling arrived at Malmstrom last March and has since revamped their pre-deployment procurement process, making it easier and more efficient for airmen to get the appropriate gear before shipping out.

Schilling herself is preparing for what will be her sixth deployment, but the first with the 819th.

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Though they aren’t leaving until sometime around April, the logistics and supply teams have been busy getting gear sizes and ordering the needed gear that will now arrive already packed into bags labeled for the appropriate airman. Those shipments will include about $1.4 million worth of deployment gear, according to the 819th.

Schilling and her team have been working with the Defense Logistics Agency to develop the process modeled after the 823rd RED HORSE in Florida.

It’s more work on the front end, Schilling said, but before, the gear would come in piecemeal and the unit had to pack the bags in-house, taking time away from other deployment preparation.

“It’s so much more efficient now,” Geaney said.

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Geaney said the deploying airmen are going to two different locations, one in Africa and one in the Middle East. There they’ll be building runways and handling new construction that isn’t being contracted out.

When the RED HORSE units first started deploying to those locations, they shipped vehicles and equipment over, but since those items are still overseas, they just need to bring their individual gear and weapons, plus items needed for new bases, such as a six month supply of toothpaste, Geaney said.

The unit gets instructions on what they’ll need, but those instructions might come in a large document and the pertinent information might be scattered throughout those pages.

Schilling and her team work through the document to develop checklists for the airmen to make sure they’re prepared.

Geaney will be deploying with the 819th. He’s deployed briefly once before. Airmen in the deploying group are fresh out of training, while one airman has deployed 26 times.

“It’s good mix of experience,” Geaney said.

Even though the bulk of the 819th is deploying, stateside missions won’t slow down. They’ve got a humanitarian mission planned in partnership with the National Guard.

Geaney’s career field is logistics, though the processes are different for RED HORSE than the rest of the Air Force, he said.

More often, they’re working with aircraft, parts and refueling, or at Malmstrom, they support the nuclear mission.

“it’s a slight change of pace,” he said, with the primary logistics mission at RED HORSE is to support the engineers.

Logistics at RED HORSE includes services, security forces, vehicle maintenance, supply, medical, air transportation and readiness.

“It’s a diverse group,” Geaney said. “Everybody that’s not an engineer is in my flight.”

While deployed, the airmen will be able to communicate with loved ones back home.

“That’s definitely a plus,” Geaney said. “The wi-fi is slow, but it’s still wi-fi.”

Communication capability has improved even over last year, he said.

With five deployments under her belt, Schilling has a system for preparing for deployment. First, she knocks out her training, makes sure power of attorney is in order, moves things into storage and finds a home for the dog.

“I actually enjoy deploying,” she said.