554th RHS demolition team has blast at Andersen

by Senior Airman Joshua Smoot
36th Wing Public Affairs

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam  -- Located about 20 minutes from Andersen Air Force Base at Northwest Field, a small group of Airmen is tasked to do something many are told to avoid: cause destruction.

The 22-man 554th RED HORSE Squadron explosive demolition team is trained to use munitions for a variety of missions, including base denial. In the unlikely event an adversary would overrun Andersen AFB, the team has the means, knowledge and experience to destroy key facilities and infrastructure through demolition operations.

In addition, the crew blasts the RED HORSE quarry near Northwest Field to obtain raw materials for construction. Once the rock is processed through a rock crusher, the material turns to base course.

"Base course is pretty expensive," said Capt. Jimmy Oxedine, 554th RED HORSE explosive demolition team officer in charge. "By blasting to obtain (the materials) rather than purchasing them, we save approximately $1 million to $2 million each year."

Only hand-selected RED HORSE Airmen get the chance to join the exclusive team. Airmen must first be recommended by their supervisors, then candidates are vetted through a selection process with the 554th RHS commander as the final approving authority.

"It's an honor knowing that I am one of a few individuals who were chosen to be on this team," said Airman 1st Class Chase Gaines, 554th RHS pavements and equipment operator.

Once selected to be a part of the team, the new demolition troops are trained by experts on the fundamentals of planned destruction.

The two-week course allows trainees hands-on instruction in addition to what they learn during classroom sessions. Students practice blasting at the RED HORSE quarry and the proficiency range where the demolition team conducts regular proficiency detonations. Once the Airmen pass the academic and practical portion, they graduate and obtain their professional certification.

Two instructors traveled to Guam in July to host the course and show new crews the ins-and-outs of munition detonation. Technicians with the 820th RED HORSE Squadron from Nellis AFB, Nevada, conduct demolition certification and training for all four active-duty RED HORSE units within the Air Force.

"It's probably some of the best training I've ever had just because of the experience," Oxedine said. "You're handling actual explosives, which can be nerve-wracking for some people at first, but the instructors came out and walked us through the process and showed us how it's done."

The 554th RHS demolition teams comprises primarily of airfields construction technicians and pavements and equipment operators. The current lineup includes members from logistics and supply.

"We have a good mix of folks out here," Oxedine said. "We have a great team, get along great and we have fun. But we know when to be safe and serious and make sure we are doing things the right way."

While job proficiency is a focus for all Airmen, demolition teams are required to detonate munitions at least once a month to remain qualified.

The demolition team plans on conducting multiple blasts to dispose of their current stockpile, so loud noises can be expected near the blast zone in the upcoming months.

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