U.S. Air Force Engineers Sharpen Skills, Help Local Community
ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D.,— Airmen from the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron here are improving their construction skills by building eight new homes in a Habitat for Humanity project in Rapid City, South Dakota. Watching something start from nothing to become a finished project can inspire someone to have hope, said Air Force Senior Airman Kurt Nelson, a heavy structures journeyman assigned to the 28th CES.
Helping People in Need
“It’s a nice place to live and a lot of people don’t get the opportunities we do, so it allows them to support their family in their time of need and really gives them some hope in life — there is a ‘big picture’ to it,” Nelson said.
Participation in such events enables the Air Force engineers to utilize different skills that they otherwise wouldn’t use.
“Being in civil engineering, we don’t always get to go out and build stuff like this at our duty stations,” Nelson said. “We’re maintaining the base and don’t really get to go from ground up, so this really lets people use their craft and skill. Doing this will greatly help them once they go down-range, and that’s a big foot up on everybody else.”
Habitat for Humanity events occur often and the 28th CES is a regular volunteer group. The project assists the community, but also build teamwork and skill sets between the airmen who will be deploying later in the year.
“We typically have a Habitat for Humanity build once a month,” Nelson said. “Since we have so many people going down-range, our commander authorized us to do this for a week, so people have the know-how and get to work together.”
Although some airmen may not have any experience in certain skills, this allows for a teaching experience between the engineers.
“This event helps get the airmen out here and give back to the community,” said John Schnecke, the site manager for the Black Hills area Habitat for Humanity branch. “It also helps the community realize that Ellsworth is not just out there as a base, but is actually invested in the community and provides support.”
Many of the current project’s engineering challenges involve “skill, and a person’s knowledge in different areas,” Schencke said.
“A lot of them [airmen] could be [heating, ventilation, and air conditioning specialists] or plumbers, so they wouldn’t necessarily be good at building a wall, so you can plan on teaching them as they go,” he said. “We usually have one or two people out here who are good in the construction field, and can lead the crews and make things easier on us.”
Schnecke said the Air Force engineers’ assistance reduces the time it takes to build the houses.
“Basically, what we’re doing is the main support wall in the crawlspace to support our houses coming in,” he said. “Without CE’s support, it would be very difficult to achieve our goal. And without them, it could set us back a month or more, which would create problems with our subcontractors.”
The Rapid City and Ellsworth communities have a long history of working together to benefit each other. Airmen spend thousands of hours volunteering to better their communities.
[Source: By Air Force Airman Nicolas Erwin,28th Bomb Wing – U.S. DoD -/- Media Relations]
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