Virginia Beach-based National Guard airmen return home from Southwest Asia

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — More than 120 Virginia Air National Guard engineers were reunited with friends and family on Wednesday at Camp Pendleton after serving on federal active duty since March in Southwest Asia.

Leaders from state government and the Virginia National Guard were on hand to thank the airmen for the service and welcome them home.

Airmen assigned to the Virginia Beach-based 203rd Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers, or RED HORSE, finished 35 projects at 11 different locations throughout seven countries in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and Operation Inherent Resolve.

“It was an outstanding effort by all of our Airmen,” said Lt. Col. Stock Dinsmore, commander of the 203rd.

While deployed, the airmen served under the 557th Expeditionary RED HORSE Squadron, as part of the 1st Expeditionary Civil Engineering Group, which is made of up more than 600 personnel from the 203rd and other RED HORSE and Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force, or PRIME BEEF, units — a mix of active duty and Air National Guard.

The 1st ECEG was headquartered in Southwest Asia and was responsible for providing theater engineer support for vertical and horizontal construction missions and projects that enhanced operations, safety and quality of life for soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in the Central Command area of operations.

During the rotation, the 557th ERHS completed 35 projects valued at more than $34 million. The unit’s highest priorities were upgrading and expanding airfield pavement, bed down missions for aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles, construction of several munitions storage areas, and security improvements to remote outposts. They utilized the full range of special construction capabilities including K-Span design and construction, erection of expeditionary shelter systems, erection of pre-engineered buildings, site development, asphalt, concrete and gravel pavements and well drilling operations.

No airmen from the unit were killed or seriously wounded in combat action.

The 203rd also conducted deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003, 2006 and 2011.