GREAT FALLS — Students from Great Falls High School and CMR High School got the chance to get some hands-on experience and learn more about a different side of the military.
About 70 students were given unique access to view the equipment and technology used by the 219th RED HORSE unit at Malmstrom Air Force Base.
RED HORSE is an acronym for Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer.
The unit is part of the Montana Air National Guard (MTANG)
Many of the students are part of trade programs at Great Falls Public Schools, ranging from the High School House to CMR's Welding Program.
Master Sergeant Patrick Gilroy said, "Students from CMR and Great Falls High come over. They are already associated with the trade such as the high school house here in town, and they learn how those skills can be utilized in the future. They see what our Red Horse unit is doing, which is our deployable construction unit. They get to see how those skills help others and learn about what the benefits are to joining MTANG."
RED HORSE units are the civil engineering SWAT teams of the U.S. Air Force. Their mission largely pertains to supporting special operations or contingency deployments worldwide.
MSgt Derek Smith says it's important to teach high school student and help them learn more about what they do.
"It's key to get these high school students out here and see what we do," Smith said. "The biggest part is being part of the Guard, you have education. We can provide education for the carpenters or any of the construction world. It just gives them a pathway for careers, and it's a good way to step into the trades industry, serve your state, serve your country, while you can serve the community down in Great Falls."
Luis Martinez is a senior at CMR High School. He said he was inspired by his father, who served in the Air Force. There is also some of his own passions, which influenced him to learn more about the RED HORSE unit.
"I really wanted to be like my dad," he said. "He was a really great guy. In fact, he also did a lot of good things in the Air Force. What I really wanted to do is meteorology, but I also like to do HVAC as well."
Organizers said while joining the military is something they encourage for anyone, being part of the RED HORSE provides all sorts of skills that can be used both in and outside of the military.
"Any trade that you can think of we have at the RED HORSE, we provide the schooling, we provide training and hands on experience so that they're proficient in their position. They can use that even after the military life," Gilroy said.
The federal government recently announced a series of sign-on bonuses (some up to $15,000) available for certain high-need military jobs, many of which are within the RED HORSE unit.
Click here to visit the MT ANG website.