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Mobile and Dependable: Prime BEEF and RED HORSE in Southeast Asia

Prime BEEF Team constructing an aircraft revetment at Pleiku AB, South Vietnam, in April 1966. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Prime BEEF Team constructing an aircraft revetment at Pleiku AB, South Vietnam, in April 1966. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A Prime BEEF crew pours concrete for the floor of a building at Tan Son Nhut AB in South Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A Prime BEEF crew pours concrete for the floor of a building at Tan Son Nhut AB in South Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Three members of the 820th Civil Engineering Squadron RED HORSE belt together panels of galvanized steel to make one arch for an aircraft shelter being constructed at Da Nang AB, South Vietnam, in October 1968. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Three members of the 820th Civil Engineering Squadron RED HORSE belt together panels of galvanized steel to make one arch for an aircraft shelter being constructed at Da Nang AB, South Vietnam, in October 1968. (U.S. Air Force photo)

RED HORSE workers of the 820th Civil Engineering Squadron completing aircraft shelters at Da Nang AB, South Vietnam, in January 1969. These shelters housed USAF F-4 Phantoms of the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing. Eventually, RED HORSE engineers built nearly 400 aircraft shelters in Vietnam, most were covered by concrete for added protection. (U.S. Air Force photo)

RED HORSE workers of the 820th Civil Engineering Squadron completing aircraft shelters at Da Nang AB, South Vietnam, in January 1969. These shelters housed USAF F-4 Phantoms of the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing. Eventually, RED HORSE engineers built nearly 400 aircraft shelters in Vietnam, most were covered by concrete for added protection. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The 820th Civil Engineering Squadron, RED HORSE at Dong Ha, South Vietnam, erecting housing for USAF's Detachment 1, 620th Tactical Control Squadron in December 1967. The original housing was replaced by bunker quarters, because the base was frequently subjected to enemy artillery attacks. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The 820th Civil Engineering Squadron, RED HORSE at Dong Ha, South Vietnam, erecting housing for USAF's Detachment 1, 620th Tactical Control Squadron in December 1967. The original housing was replaced by bunker quarters, because the base was frequently subjected to enemy artillery attacks. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Completed in July 1967, Project Turnkey consisted of the design and construction of a tactical fighter base in South Vietnam entirely by the USAF. In just one year’s time, the USAF transformed isolated real estate to the fully operational Tuy Hoa AB–the only air base in Southeast Asia built by the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Completed in July 1967, Project Turnkey consisted of the design and construction of a tactical fighter base in South Vietnam entirely by the USAF. In just one year’s time, the USAF transformed isolated real estate to the fully operational Tuy Hoa AB–the only air base in Southeast Asia built by the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

RED HORSE crews operating quarry equipment at Tuy Hoa AB, South Vietnam, in 1966. (U.S. Air Force photo)

RED HORSE crews operating quarry equipment at Tuy Hoa AB, South Vietnam, in 1966. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Responding to worldwide emergencies, the U.S. Air Force deploys teams of civil engineers to support its mission. For emergency civil engineer support, Prime BEEF (Base Engineer Emergency Force) teams can respond within hours. When operations require support above the normal base civil engineer capabilities, the USAF calls upon RED HORSE (Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron, Engineer) units. 

RED HORSE squadrons are mobile units capable of rapid deployment and independent operations in remote, high-threat environments around the world. To be self-sufficient, RED HORSE squadrons have their own weapons, construction vehicles and equipment, vehicle maintenance, food service, supply and medical equipment. 

The USAF created Prime BEEF following the Lebanon Crisis of 1958, the Berlin Crisis in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Prime BEEF teams gave the Air Force a responsive engineering capability that was soon used in Vietnam. RED HORSE originated in 1965, when the United States began its buildup of forces in South Vietnam. 

When local facilities and airfields in South Vietnam proved inadequate, the USAF deployed newly created RED HORSE units with heavy equipment to enlarge and enhance the existing facilities. The first of these units arrived in February 1966 to improve airfields, but they quickly expanded their efforts. RED HORSE personnel from seven squadrons constructed roads, utilities, hardened aircraft shelters and other major facilities throughout South Vietnam, Thailand, and eventually Korea following the USS Pueblo incident in 1968. 

After the Southeast Asia War ended, Air Force leaders recognized the need to keep a quick-reacting heavy repair force in peacetime. RED HORSE continued with some units in the active force, the Air National Guard, and the Air Force Reserves. 

To provide adequate training, RED HORSE units are tasked with peacetime civil engineering projects similar to what would be required during a contingency. In the years after Vietnam, RED HORSE units built aircraft shelters, repaired runways and completed many other construction projects around the world. In addition, they have deployed to assist natural disaster recovery efforts after hurricanes, floods and volcanic eruptions. 

Click here to return to the South Vietnam: Build-Up and Engagement Overview.

Please note the museum’s parking lot is undergoing construction and repaving through the end of April. There should be minimal disruption to visitors. In addition, Springfield Street, the road that leads to the museum’s entrance, is undergoing construction through the beginning of September. Expect lane reductions and some delays. Please follow the signs and instructions provided by the road crews.

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