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RED HORSE Airmen lend helping hand to local homeless shelter

Staff Sgt. Scott Brown, 554th RED HORSE electrical contingency instructor, replaces a light switch Sept. 26, 2015, at the Guma San Jose Homeless Shelter, Dededo, Guam.  The Airmen offered their specialized services to assist with the shelter’s electrical, plumbing and air conditioning issues. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Smoot/Released)

Staff Sgt. Scott Brown, 554th RED HORSE electrical contingency instructor, replaces a light switch Sept. 26, 2015, at the Guma San Jose Homeless Shelter, Dededo, Guam. The Airmen offered their specialized services to assist with the shelter’s electrical, plumbing and air conditioning issues. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Smoot/Released)

Airmen assigned with the 554th RED HORSE expand a garden Sept. 26, 2015, at the Guma San Jose Homeless Shelter, Dededo, Guam. The team offered specialized services to assist with the shelter’s electrical, plumbing and air conditioning issues. Crews also expanded a garden to allow residents to grow their own fruits and vegetables and develop healthy eating habits. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Smoot/Released)

Airmen assigned with the 554th RED HORSE expand a garden Sept. 26, 2015, at the Guma San Jose Homeless Shelter, Dededo, Guam. The team offered specialized services to assist with the shelter’s electrical, plumbing and air conditioning issues. Crews also expanded a garden to allow residents to grow their own fruits and vegetables and develop healthy eating habits. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Smoot/Released)

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- RED HORSE Airmen are part of a uniquely trained unit capable of providing rapid response and independent operations in remote environments to support worldwide contingencies and special operations.

Although the Airmen assigned to the 554th RED HORSE Squadron are used to operating specialized equipment to provide expedient airfield or facility repairs in the harshest conditions, the engineer force used their training in a different setting Sept. 26, to assist the Guma San Jose Homeless Shelter in Dededo, Guam.

The Airmen offered their skills to help shelter staff with electrical, plumbing and air conditioning improvements. In addition, they expanded a garden at the shelter to allow residents to grow their own fruits and vegetables and develop healthy eating habits. 

"We were happy to have RED HORSE come out here and help us with our needs," said Michael Suzuki, GSJ homeless shelter manager. "Whatever they can do for the shelter is an immediate assistance to our residents."

The shelter's small maintenance staff struggled to keep up with the facility's wear and tear and at times were forced to close rooms and turn down families, Suzuki said.

The Airmen's electrical repairs will allow the shelter to accommodate an extra family rather than having the room closed down for a night or longer. That could mean the difference between a family sleeping on the streets or in a comfortable bed during the night, Suzuki said.

Tech. Sgt. Michael Tewes, 554th RED HORSE Squadron NCO in charge of contingency engineering instruction, came up with the idea to assist the shelter during a previous volunteer event. 

"When I came over to the homeless shelter, I got to speak with some of the shelter managers and tenants and quickly realized that they needed some help," Tewes said. "That's what sparked the idea of 'Hey, we have all the specialties in our squadron.' Let's use the skills that the Air Force has given us to help out this shelter."

The team's work continues volunteer efforts Tewes and other Silver Flag Airmen took on at a nursing home near Kadena Air Base, Japan.

"We established a good relationship with them and anytime they had issues, we helped," Tewes said. "When we came to Guam, we were kind of looking for a similar project. When I saw the shelter, I said 'this is it' and we decided this is going to be the place to put our efforts."

The engagement is just another example of Andersen Air Force Base Airmen reaching out and volunteering in the local community, Tewes continued.

"Even though Guam is a U.S. territory, they are our host," he said. "We are showing that we support the community. Guam in a sense is serving us, so we are just returning the favor."