A loud boom fills the quarry as three explosives were detonated simultaneously at the RED HORSE quarry, June 6. The 554th RED HORSE Squadron explosive demolition team blasts once a month to stay qualified and at least once a quarter to obtain raw material from the quarry. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Marianique Santos/Released)
The 554th RED HORSE Squadron explosive demolition team members connect the explosives’ wires to the sequential board during set up for a blast at the RED HORSE quarry, June 6. The team blasts once a month to stay qualified and at least once a quarter to obtain raw material from the quarry. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Marianique Santos/Released)
The 554th RED HORSE Squadron utilizes a terminal board for their sequential blasts. The sequential board is connected to a detonator and disperses the activating charge to the wires that connect to the explosives. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Marianique Santos/Released)
by Airman 1st Class Marianique Santos
36th Wing Public Affairs
6/7/2012 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- "Five..., four..., three..., two..., one...," counted the Airman; a brief pause. Then Boom! The deafening sounds reverberated in the quarry as members of the 554th RED HORSE Squadron explosive demolition team watched the results of the explosives they had set earlier that day.
"We blast once a month to stay qualified and at least try to blast once a quarter at the RED HORSE quarry to get raw material off the mountain," said Tech. Sgt. Joel Kennedy, 554 RHS explosive demolition team noncommissioned officer in charge. "We process the material from the mountain through our rock crusher to make construction material for the Pacific Air Forces Regional Training Center."
The rock that they blast off the mountain is coral limestone, and when it is processed through the rock crusher, the material turns to base course.
"It's a foundation for pretty much all construction we do," said the sergeant. "All the roads, the concrete slabs; everything here on North West Field is sitting on material from the mountain."
Material from the quarry saves the RED HORSE squadron around $1.3 - $1.4 million dollars a year.
"We accomplish this by getting construction material from the mountains ourselves instead of purchasing it somewhere else," he said.
With the responsibility and risk of being on the team, Sergeant Kennedy said that the squadron chooses RED HORSE servicemembers that are recommended by their supervisors and then they ensure that they are well trained before they officially become part of the team.
"This is the initial class, and we've brought in instructors from our pilot unit in Las Vegas to train them," he said. "With the constant permanent change of station rotation affecting the demo team, we try to keep up our manning once a year with a two week initial class."
One of the Airmen from the new group, Airman 1st Class Kent Ippel, 554 RHS explosive demolition team member-in-training, said that during the early stages of the two week class, he has enjoyed learning about set up.
"The thing I find most interesting about this (demolition) class so far is how to set up all the wiring, how to cap it, crimping it and knowing the right procedures of doing so," he said. "Not paying attention to detail and getting careless is what makes things go wrong."
Despite knowing the hazards of working with explosives, Airman Ippel said that he doesn't necessarily find anything scary about this duty.
"You just have to pay attention to what you're doing," said the Airman.
During RED HORSE's history here at Andersen, the 554th, and 254th RED HORSE from the Guam Air National Guard, have re-awakened Guam's historical Northwest Field, building and maintaining PACAF's premier expeditionary combat skills training campus. For as long as training goes on in this state-of-the-art training site, the members of the 544 RHS explosive demolition team will be blasting in Andersen's quarry; providing the material to build, maintain and support overseas contingency operations, disaster relieve and humanitarian assistance operations throughout the Pacific.
Sergeant Kennedy said that being part of the team is an incentive, a privilege. They don't just let anyone be part of their team; they pick the best performers out of those who apply.
"It feels good to be chosen," said Airman Ippel. "I joined the demo team because I thought it would be interesting, fun and something I can learn a lot from. I'm glad to be part of this, and I can't wait to do real blasts with the team."