YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- The red baseball cap wearing 800th RED HORSE Group, or Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers, have been seen at Yokota Air Base flightline construction sites throughout the year as they steadily toil to build permanent expansions to the base’s aircraft support and mission readiness capabilities.
The 374th Airlift Wing’s mission is to provide agile personnel and cargo airlift capability, in addition to providing in-route support to other aircraft traversing the region. Yokota’s flightline saw approximately 33,000 flights hitting the pavement last year, and its role as an aircraft hub is being expanded to accommodate a greater contingency role in the Indo-Pacific region, investing $370 million in the past year to the effort.
However, there’s no new space to build more at Yokota AB, so the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron and the 800th RHG have partnered to employ creative approaches in maximizing or remodeling existing areas across the air field to meet Yokota’s evolving strategic vision.
“RED HORSE does heavy repair and infrastructure construction for Air Force bases,” said Capt. Matthew Jacobs, 823rd RED HORSE Squadron officer in charge and site manager. “This is the first project that the newly activated 800th RHG has undertook in the Indo-Pacific area. We sent a team here from January through July for an ITTP, or Integrated Troop Training Project, that started work on two new flight line aprons. We’re the second group that’s been out here since July to continue the runway expansion project here at Yokota.”
These massive new stretches of concrete aprons, where aircraft are parked, maintained and refueled, will provide Yokota a gain of approximately 33% more aircraft support capacity over the course of the multi-year project.
The project provides important on-the-job training for RHG Airmen and Yokota’s own 374th Civil Engineer Squadron ‘Dirt Boys’ section, who assisted in clearing the way for apron construction to begin.
“Excavating ahead of RHG has given our Airmen extended training time in heavy equipment that would otherwise be rarely used,” said Master Sgt. Brent Fallon, 374th Civil Engineer Squadron heavy repair superintendent. “We may use a bulldozer once a year, but cooperating with this project has our Airmen in the seat all day, every day, for weeks at a time. This is invaluable for proficiency certification, as those who have hundreds of hours of practice will be looked to as a training leader down the road.”
After the 374th CES excavated new apron construction areas, the newly arriving RHG team set straight to work by laying down 5,200 tons of aggregate gravel as a stabilizing foundation, and then completed pouring 3,000 cubic meters of concrete or rigid pavement.
RED HORSE Squadrons were created in 1965 in response to heavy engineering capability needs during the Vietnam War, where they provided expeditionary rapid base damage repair and airfield construction capability as an independent unit. Participating in base construction projects provides Airmen confidence in skills they will later use to repair or build up locations in contested areas.
“We train like we fight, so doing these tasks in the field is how our newer Airmen complete their upgrade training,” said Master Sgt. Kendal Drake, 823rd RHS superintendent and project manager. “Doing tasks like this are not always available at home stations, so when they get an opportunity to do an ITTP, it will serve them in deployed environments where they will have to handle adverse conditions.”
The 374th CES “Dirt Boys” are currently clearing the way for the next two apron expansions to begin construction early next year, to be worked on by another RHG team as they rotate through to maximize training throughout the squadrons.
Other updates to hangars, fuel storage and transport, drainage and runway paint is also being worked on, with the apron expansion being part of 21 currently on-going airfield construction projects that aim to enhance the base’s ability to support massive influxes of varied airframes in an emergency scenario.
The newly activated 800th RED HORSE Group’s labors at Yokota display unified production and training capability between the Air Force’s engineer corps Airmen, as they provide the 374th AW’s rapid airlift mission with expanded strategic infrastructure, which is a vital component to Pacific Air Command’s coordination of U.S. and allied forces in maintaining Indo-Pacific stability and security.