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RED HORSE drills into the future

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Joshua Kleinholz
  • 332d Air Expeditionary Wing

Members of the 557th Expeditionary RED HORSE Squadron are closing in on the completion of the first of three new wells set to be drilled in order to support life sustainment and base construction efforts at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.

The project, ordered by the Air Force Central Command and overseen by the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, is aimed at establishing a more enduring coalition presence in the area. Though RED HORSE units are renowned for being a rapidly deployable, highly efficient construction force, an undertaking of this size will require years of work and a calculated, methodical transition.  RED HORSE was here first to provide water where there was none -- and they’ll answer the call once again now that more is needed.

“We’re tasked to develop three new wells in this area,” said Tech. Sgt. Chad Parnell, 557th Expeditionary RED HORSE Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of well drilling operations. “Two of them are for the new living sustainment area, which will support the bed down of all NATO forces in the future. The third well will support ongoing construction as we look towards building up a new base.”

Civil engineer Airmen make up a small portion of the enlisted force, and specialized well drillers make up just a tiny sliver of that group. With just over 50 drillers spread across the four active-duty RED HORSE squadrons, small teams deploy frequently, and make an impact far greater than their numbers.

“Four-man crews swap out every 12 hours, each member carrying out their specific roll,” said Parnell. “We start with a hole six-inches in diameter, then drill wider to 10 inches before casing it and setting up screens.”

Over the next 6 months, the crew will drill for 24 hours a day – sending steel pipe 1,500 feet into the earth’s crust 20 feet at a time. One team member, called simply “The Mud Guy,” will stop the proceedings every 5 feet, at which point soil samples will be taken to monitor variables like viscosity, PH and sand content, among others.  At times the work is long and repetitive, but the team sources motivation from seeing the direct impact of their efforts.

“Not only are we providing water for the men and women who will be serving here in the future, but we’re also supporting all construction projects going forward,” said Parnell. “For us 10 guys, this will be our everlasting footprint.”