A Place to Call Home

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Sarah Miller
  • 133rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Twenty-two members of the 133rd Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) recently deployment for training (DFT) to Tahlequah, Okla., to participate in an Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) project with Cherokee Nation.

The training goals for every DFT always center around the opportunity to practice and enhance deployable skills, particularly for Airmen who cannot complete the tasks at their home base. The Cherokee Veterans Housing Initiative assignment started in 2020, intending to build 22 homes from the ground up for low-income or homeless Cherokee Nation veterans.

“We brought down a great cross-section of Airmen from our eight different specialty shops to train on their primary jobs, learn new skills, and problem-solve as a team,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Brett Hansen, 133rd CES commander. “The IRT program is truly a win-win for the Air National Guard and our surrounding communities; we get valuable hands-on training that we otherwise wouldn’t get, and our community partners get something of significant value in return.”

During the two-week mission, the Airmen completed a variety of trade skills, such as concrete forming and pouring, slab layout, wall framing, and lots of interior finishing of doors and trim. They clocked in 600 hours of proficiency training and 1,137 hours of cross-training for over $108,031 worth of labor provided to Cherokee Nation. Some items completed were installing 14 water heater drain pipes, 21 porch pillars with covers, three driveway culvert pipes, and leveling and grading a 12,000-square-foot construction site.

“Being a part of this IRT was fulfilling as it was a great opportunity to give back to the local community,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Zach Demmer, 133rd CES. “Building homes for low-income or homeless Cherokee veterans really made this DFT hit home for me. It was fulfilling to know that we were making such an immediate difference to the livelihood of a fellow veteran, who will have the opportunity to work and live within their local community and be able to have a place to call home.”

Before heading home, members of Cherokee Nation shared a cultural day with the Airmen, sharing their history, telling stories, playing marbles and stickball, practicing archery, and teaching their techniques of weaving baskets. From building houses to new relationships, the 22 new veteran homes are a testament to the partnerships built with Cherokee Nation during this deployment for training.