DARIEN, Ill. (Jan. 27, 2014) -- Soldiers from the 389th Engineer Company, stationed in Middletown, Iowa, along with Navy Seabees and Air Force engineers worked with the Southwest Indian Foundation in Gallup, N.M., this September, to provide homes for the Navajo Nation.
From the 389th Engineer Company, 32 Soldiers provided more than 2,300 man hours during Operation Footprint, over a span of 15 days. Their labor saved the Navajo Nation and government $51,974 in contractor wages. That doesn't even account for the labor provided by the Navy and Air Force engineers. In all, more than 60 service members worked together on this project.
"We learned a lot from our counterpart [service members]. We enjoyed being able to help the community, and we had fun doing it," said Spc. Andrw Helm, a carpentry and masonry specialist from Bondurant, Iowa.
Together, they provided carpentry, electrical, plumbing, roofing, painting, drywall and construction management on three different locations for SWIF.
Southwest Indian Foundation, or SWIF is a non-profit, charitable organization that relies solely on private donations. One of their missions is to help provide 35,000 homes for needy families. They recently received a budget of $10 million from a government grant, and have built 200 houses since 1998. Their goal is to encourage self preservation.
"It was great being able to help out the community and get to experience their culture while doing it. We were able to learn a lot from how the Seabees do constructions, and they learned a lot from how the Army does construction," said Spc. Andrew Deuitch, of Burlington, Iowa, a wheeled vehicle mechanic with a military background in horizontal construction engineering.
Their work helped build houses in the SWIF factory and install plumbing to homes already in place. The houses didn't have running water or flushable toilets until SWIF and the military engineers teamed up.
The 389th Eng. Co. and the Navy Seabees provided running water to families who previously went into town to replenish their tanks, and electricity to homes that never had it at the flip of a switch before.
During the final stage of their mission, the engineers improved living condition for special needs children and adults at the St. Michaels Association for Special Education facility. They replaced an entire roof on an arts-and-crafts building, which also hosted an employee break room. They also finished two of the three group homes assigned for their mission. The third house remained 90 percent complete due to lack of material and marble tile workers.
All of these projects allowed engineers to do what engineers love to do: work with their hands to improve their specialty skills. All of the "vertical" military occupational specialties, to include: carpenters, electricians, plumbers and equipment operators, received hands-on training that also served a valuable, real-world purpose.
The other bonus to this project was being able to finish construction, which is normally outside the realm of what Army engineers get to do. The Soldiers benefited from the training, worked with people and learned more about Navajo culture.