KILLEEN, Texas - During Operation Iraqi Freedom Rotation 06-08, a group of engineers with the 1st "Ironhorse" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division honed their construction skills by building patrol bases and a foot bridge.
But the scene was quite a bit different here May 1-2 as these engineers from Company E, 2nd "Stallion" Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment gave back to an organization on the homefront that builds houses for needy families.
In a concerted effort with Habitat for Humanity, these Soldiers worked to build a mobile equipment trailer and a 2,000 square-foot shed for equipment storage for the Killeen-based office of the non-profit, charity organization.
Over a span of two days, the engineers framed walls for the storage shed and nailed the walls together as well as working on flooring for the structure. They also completed the mobile equipment trailer that Habitat for Humanity can drive to sites where they are building houses.
"This is something that the Soldiers can do that's going to support people in the community," said Dickinson, Texas native Capt. John Burrescia, commander Co. E. "This gives them a break from the warfighter mentality and they can come out here and say I built something to help people in my community."
Along with getting the gratitude and satisfaction of helping the local community, Burrescia said there are meaningful career opportunities that his Soldiers can take away from the experience.
"These Soldiers can learn a trade and actually say when they get out (of the service) that 'I can join a construction team,'" said Burrescia. "The skills they learn here will lead them toward other projects like being able to build a shoot house for an infantry unit."
"It also counts toward community service hours for them that can help them in their career and looks good on a resume," added Burrescia.
The Co. E troops are no strangers to Habitat for Humanity. A little over three weeks ago, the Soldiers of Co. E helped the organization build a house for a family that was displaced by Hurricane Katrina. During the effort, the Soldiers built walls, hung dry wall and sheet rock.
Ed Davis, a Habitat for Humanity construction supervisor/volunteer supervisor, said he was quite impressed with the efforts Co. E put into helping Habitat for Humanity build the house for the hurricane victims.
"Some of the things they did in just two days may be about a month of work for us," said Davis, who retired from the Army and has spent 24 years at Fort Hood. "They got the dry wall finished up, started joints and gave us a big head start into getting that one finished."
Having the Soldiers back again-this time volunteering to help Habitat for Humanity build storage structures-- was quite meaningful to Davis.
"About 99 percent of our staff here are retired military and we have a lot of respect for the Soldiers (of Co. E) who are giving their time to help us. They are a fantastic bunch with a good construction head on their shoulders," said Davis. "They came out here, eager to do work in the rain-things no one else might have done."
"I've really enjoyed working with them, it's been like home again working around all these Soldiers," Davis added.
Being able to help the community through Habitat for Humanity projects is something Molien, Ill. native Pvt. Derek Kelley of Co. E said has been a valuable, learning experience that he won't soon forget.
"It's great to be able to do this," Kelley said. "It gives you a good feeling to know that you're lending a hand in some small way and everybody needs to help each other. The more everybody helps out (in the community) the nicer life can be and the more you can enjoy life."
Pfc. Jason Boldt, who hails from Southbend, Ind. echoed many of Kelley's sentiments.
"It's a good thing. This helps us further our training and you learn something new every time you do this as well as learning something about each other through the camaraderie we share while we're out here," Boldt said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16