Female Red Horse Airmen break ground
By Ilka Cole, Team Eglin Public Affairs
/ Published March 31, 2017
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- A group of female Airmen working in the building of an open air pavilion here is a unique site with the construction crew involved. In fact, it’s a first for the crew.
Approximately 30 members of the 823rd Red Horse, or Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers, have continuously built the physical training area since February. Six of them were female Airmen.
“This is an anomaly and probably won’t happen again, there are so few of us,” said Staff Sgt. Keny Drescher-Brown, 823rd RHS structures supervisor. “There are only three of us (females) in structures from about 70 structures Airmen.”
In the entire Red Horse squadron of 400, there are only 23 female Airmen, under 20 percent. That breaks down to about only one female Airmen per construction project, according to Drescher-Brown.
The project assignments are based on the crafts needed to complete the work and by rank, but based on availability, opportunity and some luck more than a quarter of the squadron’s female Airmen worked on this particular assignment.
“This is the most females I’ve ever worked with. When I deployed I was one of two, but I never saw the other girl because we were on different shifts,” said Senior Airman Sharlon Smith Hedrington, 823rd RHS structures Airman and Ohio native.
The 96th Civil Engineer Group’s open air pavilion is one of many troop training projects the 823rd RHS will complete for the Department of Defense, the Air Force and the local community to maintain their skills until the next deployment.
Working in close proximity and as a team, day-in and day-out helped the Airmen quickly get to know each other’s personalities as well as their strengths and weaknesses according to Senior Airman Paige Rodgers, a four-year veteran.
Rodgers recalled feeling uneasy during her first roof frame installation, but a fellow Airman with more experience reassured her. After the first install, she said she felt accomplished.
“Once you are on a site with people long enough everyone learns about each other. We have great camaraderie,” said Rodgers.
Even if they don’t get another assignment with females, they are more than satisfied in their career field.
“When I joined the military, I wanted to do something I enjoy,” said Smith Hedrington. “There’s satisfaction in being part of a building standup crew and knowing what you built will be there for years.”