RED HORSE uses pavilion demolition as training opportunity

Airmen of the 200th RED HORSE Squadron from the Ohio Air National Guard demolished a condemned pavilion at the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as part of a week-long Troop Training Project in early November.

RED HORSE stands for Rapid Engineer Heavy Operations Repair Squadron Engineers. RED HORSE’s primary wartime responsibility is to provide highly mobile, rapidly deployable civil engineering forces to perform heavy damage repair while staying self-sufficient. During peace time, RED HORSE trains to meet those skills, to include providing assistance to base construction efforts such as the one at AFIT.

“The service the 200 RHS team provided was extremely beneficial,” said Col. Paul Cotellesso, AFIT Air University Detachment 1 commander and career Air Force civil engineer. “Without them, replacing the pavilion would never have been a reality.”

The pavilion was built in 1988 and frequently used until 2016, when it was condemned due to a sinking roof and other structural issues. Tight budgets combined with the pavilion being a quality-of-life benefit, Cotellesso said it was very unlikely that the project would rank high enough to be funded through normal infrastructure processes.

“The Civil Engineers in the Ohio Air National Guard have maintained a strong relationship with the Civil Engineering School at AFIT,” said Lt. Col. Daryl Brezina, 200 RHS operations officer. “When they asked us for help on replacing the pavilion, the 200th was happy to support.”

Tasks included removing all wiring and lighting from the pavilion, removing the roof and support beams, demolishing two masonry chimneys and prepping the 40-by-30-foot concrete slab for removal in the spring by cutting it into 4-by-4-foot sections. 200 RHS Detachment 1 sent an electrician, three heavy equipment operators and five structures craftsmen to do the work, while receiving critical on-the-job training.

“This project required them to mobilize in a manner similar to a deployment,” Cotellesso said. “The Airmen received valuable training and education on taking down a structure, safely using equipment and solving issues that arose during this rare demolition training opportunity. Working on the pavilion’s concrete slab taught saw cutting skills that would be used when patching and repairing an airfield.”

Unique training opportunities like this are not common, said 2nd. Lt. Brett Baver, 200 RHS Detachment 1 project officer.

“RED HORSE is hoping to teach our Airmen demolition skills that aren’t often done due to lack of opportunity,” Baver said. “It will also provide them the opportunity to refine their skills specific to their Air Force specialty codes during the construction portion in the spring.”

Besides teaching job-specific skills, the demolition also provided lessons in teamwork.

“Training on projects like this helps everyone to learn and be more effective as a group,” said Senior Airman Joey Lewis, 200 RHS Detachment 1 heavy equipment operator.

RED HORSE Airmen weren’t the only ones learning though – AFIT is using the project to train its own students and faculty as well.

“This was a joint effort with several AFIT personnel providing support,” said Lt. Col. James Fee, AFIT Air University Detachment 1 section commander. “Faculty from AFIT’s Civil Engineer School provided overall project management while faculty and students from the Graduate School of Engineering and Management are designing the new structure. Also, AFIT’s facilities manager, Mike Bergman, managed many critical logistics aspects and coordinated with Wright-Patt’s Civil Engineer group. Without his drive and tenacity, this project would not have been successful.”

The Airmen of 200 RHS Detachment 1 are expected to return next year in the spring to finish demolition and begin construction on the new AFIT-designed pavilion. — Katie Scott, Air Force Institute of Technology, co-wrote this story.

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