Building up Al Asad
AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq -- Senior Airman Matthew Byrd, a 557th Expeditionary REDHORSE vehicle maintenance technician, inspects a punctured tire. Airman Bird patched the tire to use it as a spare. Airman Byrd is deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base, La. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Travis Edwards)
Air Force engineers improve Marine quality of life

by Staff Sgt. Travis Edwards
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

12/13/2007 - AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq -- The 557th Expeditionary RED HORSE Squadron is improving the lives and operating conditions of Marines one day at a time by constructing more than $9.8 million in aircraft shelters, taxiways and temporary shelters here.

Deployed in an "in-lieu-of" tasking in support of the 20th Army Engineer Brigade, RED HORSE Airmen are completing numerous projects -- from the design concept to completion -- in a joint service environment.

"We're here working on a Marine base, taking on an Army job while using Navy parts," said Master Sgt. Richard Kapp, the 557th ERHS cantonments superintendent and acting first sergeant, deployed from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. "It's an odd process."

RED HORSE is an elite Air Force engineer squadron, whose main function is to take a strip of uninhabited land and turn it into a fully functioning base with running water, shelters and power.

The RED HORSE team currently has 14 assigned projects. Six construction tasks are underway, and six more are scheduled to start soon totaling $9.8 million.

One project recently completed was a $65,000 convoy briefing facility, which included three temporary shelters.

"Having this facility complete now allows the Soldiers and Marines, who are going out on convoys, to have a place to brief before heading out on dangerous missions without having their mind distracted by the extreme cold or heat," said Senior Master Sgt. Rob Townsend, the 557th ERHS superintendent deployed from Malmstrom AFB, Mont.

RED HORSE also has other temporary-shelters going up throughout the base.

"One of our sites will house more than $1.5 million in Meals Ready-to-Eat that normally would have been thrown away due to the high heat in the summer," said Capt. Andy LaFrazia, the 557th ERHS spoke commander for Al Asad, deployed from McChord AFB, Wash.

The engineers have faced several challenges as a result of the non-traditional nature of the deployment.

"Getting materials we need for a project is a problem on everyone's mind. It's a brand new system," said Captain LaFrazia. "We are getting used to it and are pushing forward, keeping our mind on the mission."

The Airmen are driven to improve the quality of life of their fellow military members.

"Everyone here wants to make a difference," said Sergeant Townsend. "We all have the same focus of getting the job done and done safely."

"We are building a better way of life for all the servicemembers who live and work in Al Asad," said Senior Airman James Cox, a 557th ERHS electrician deployed from Shaw AFB, S.C.