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

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.