Airmen from the 944th Civil Engineering Squadron at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., helped strengthen the relationship between the Department of Defense and a Navaho community in Gallup, N.M., recently.
The DOD and Southwest Indian Foundation are partnered to provide newly constructed homes for Navajo Nation members as part of an Innovative Readiness Training project and Operation Footprint.
Thirty Citizen Airman from the wing, teamed-up with 11 U.S. Navy Seabees from various units one last time as the final Air Force unit to work on the project before they hand it over to the Navy.
“We were fortunate to be the last AF rotation on the Gallup, N.M., IRT,” said Senior Master Sgt. Kenneth Bohannon, 944 CES superintendent. “The Navy will be taking over the project after our rotation is complete. We felt motivated to make sure we ended the AF involvement in the project on a high note.”
SWIF has a fulltime staff and operates a warehouse that is open year-round where homes are constructed for placement in the local area. The warehouse is approximately 6,000 square feet and is designed to accommodate construction of three homes at a time. The homes are constructed in three phases with each home in a different phase, creating an assembly line process that allows individuals from all CE specialties to be gainfully employed at the site. Reserve, Guard and active-duty service members from all branches work and train in the warehouse during the summer months.
The group also has a staff that works off-site. The mission for those working off-site is to construct foundations, install minimal infrastructure and set homes. The homes built during the IRT project will be provided to needy families within the Navajo Nation.
“This project was by far the best experience I have had since enlisting,” said Staff Sgt. Donald McGuire, 944 CES structure specialist. “The team I was assigned to was very cohesive and eager to learn. I could not have asked for better men or women to work with on this project. This cohesion and the quality of Airman and Sailors, made the work more enjoyable and ultimately productive.”
McGuire was assigned to lead a team composed of plumbers, administration personnel and an education manager from both the AF and Navy services. At the end of the deployment, senior leadership recognized him as, “Top Team Lead,” stemming from the accomplishments of his team during the project.
The 944th team was given the opportunity to see a few stages of the project that most teams do not get to see. The team completed one of the three homes in the warehouse and placed it on a permanent off-site foundation. Additionally, they started one of the three homes from scratch in the warehouse and built it up to 40 percent completion which including the floor system, walls and roof. Lastly, the team undertook offsite grading, foundation, and stem wall work in preparation for placement of the finished homes.
“Our team exceeded expectations and left a lasting impression on the IRT project,” continued Bohannon. “We received high praise from the AF and Navy project senior leadership for working well as a team and bringing the project ahead of schedule at the end of the two weeks. I was really impressed with the great attitudes and the ability to work seamlessly with the Navy personnel.”
IRT is a civil-military program that builds mutually beneficial partnerships between U.S. communities and the DOD to meet training and readiness requirements for active, Guard, and Reserve service members and units while addressing public and civil-society needs.
For more information on IRT, visit http://irt.defense.gov/.