As other services have well known units, such as the Army's 101st and 82nd Airborne, the Air Force's RED HORSE, along with the Thunderbirds, have paved its way to the knowledge of many, military or civilian.
What makes RED HORSE truly unique in the civil engineer community is that it is classified as a weapons system and provides a highly responsive force to support contingency, peacetime and humanitarian operations world-wide.
REDHORSE capabilities include but are not limited to: cradle-to-grave engineering, aircraft launch systems, bed-down operations, expedient facility construction, heavy equipment, water well drilling, concrete and asphalt batch plant, quarry, explosive demolition, air assault, supply, logistics, food services, medical, administration, training, contracting and comptroller operations.
In the early years of the Vietnam Conflict the Air Force lacked the engineering capability to quickly respond to expedient wartime construction and disaster recovery efforts on U.S. bases. At this point, repairs were beyond the scope of a regular civil engineering unit. The Air Force needed a squadron that could construct expeditionary airfields and build facilities in the most austere conditions supporting forward deployed tactical units.
By September 1965 Tactical Air Command (TAC) created two units with the name REDHORSE, an acronym meaning; Rapid Engineering Deployable Heavy Operations Repair Squadron Engineer. These two units would initially deploy to Southwest Asia. The 554th Civil Engineering Squadron (Heavy Repair) was constituted on Oct. 1, 1965 and organized 11 days later. The 554th and 555th CES Squadrons began training at Cannon AFB, N.M. The 554th CES initially deployed to Phan Rang Air Base, Republic of Vietnam in February 1966 where its first major project was a complete runway reconstruction.
In May 1967, the 554th CES was reassigned to the 1st Civil Engineer Group, and on Feb 15, 1970, the 554th CES moved to Cam Ranh Bay Air Base and then again to Da Nang Air Base on Nov. 30, 1971. By the end of 1971, the 554th CES was the only squadron remaining in the Republic of Vietnam. It moved to U Tapao AB, Thailand, on June 30, 1972 to remove modular facilities.
A few years later, on 5 January 1976, the unit was assigned to Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) and moved yet again to Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea with a detachment remaining in the Philippines for a short time. In the early 1980s, the 554th CES proved to be instrumental and lived up to its name by constructing facilities at Suwon Air Base to support a newly assigned A-10 squadron assigned to 5th Air Force.
In 1987, 7th Air Force became the proud owner of the 554th CES, and on 15 October 1988, re-designated the unit as the 554th Civil Engineering Squadron, REDHORSE. On 8 March 1989 it was re-designated as the 554th RHS civil engineering squadron, and on March 1, 1994 as the 554th RHS. The unit's size was significantly reduced in the mid-1990s, but by November 2000, its manning had rebounded, creating a unit reinforced by strength of 144.
In 2004, the 554th RHS established an airborne capability known as the 554th RHS Assault, Assessment, and Repair Operations (AARO, pronounced "arrow") team to support rapid airfield seizure and repair capabilities in the Pacific Theater.
Even today, this capability is the only one of its kind in the PACAF area of responsibility.
554th RHS operating location alpha was activated at Andersen AFB, Guam on September 26, 2005 after the decision was made to move the 554th RHS from Korea. On January 22, 2008, with the relocation of manpower and equipment complete, the 554th RHS operating location alpha became the 554th RHS of the 36th Contingency Response Group, 36th Wing on Andersen AFB, Guam.
In 2009, the 554th RHS completed its first expeditionary deployment outside of the Pacific Command AOR in 35 years in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. In 2010, the 554th RHS continues extensive bed-down construction operations supporting itself, the 644th Combat Communications Squadron and the 736th Security Forces Squadron at Northwest Field. In September 2012, the 554th deployed again for the second time in 38 years outside of Pacific Command and the first time as the lead unit since the Vietnam War.
Today, the 554th is one of only four active duty REDHORSE squadrons in the Air Force and the only REDHORSE unit assigned to PACAF. Additionally, the 554th RHS is the only Total Force Integrated squadron in the Air Force.
When called upon, the 554th RHS will merge with the Air National Guard unit 254th RHS located at Andersen AFB, Guam and the Air Force Reserve unit, 307th RHS located at Barksdale AFB, La. When deployed together as a fully operational REDHORSE squadron of more than 405 personnel, the unit is completely self-sufficient and capable of independent operations worldwide, even in austere, high-threat locations.