BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Soldiers from the 465th Engineer Company, 926th Engineer Brigade, 412th Theater Engineer Command, assisted volunteers with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Birmingham to perform vital upkeep on a Hoover, Ala., residence, Nov. 3.

More than 80 soldiers from the Birmingham, Ala., unit assisted volunteers at three different project sites. Thirty Soldiers shingled roof tiles, trimmed tree branches, and cleared brush at the home of Nina Lockard.

Staff Sgt. Alvina Woods, non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the project, said that the partnership with Habitat for Humanity provided important on-the-job experience for the soldiers.

"We've been trying to get projects to get more job training," said Woods. "We're here to learn."

The 465th reached out to Habitat for Humanity for opportunities to hone in on engineering skills while helping out the community, said Spc. Louis Cooley, a carpenter with the 465th. He added that the work was perfect for a unit like the 465th, which has teams of plumbers, electricians and carpenters.

The partnership was part of an innovative readiness training exercise. These types of exercises are designed to provide real world training opportunities that prepare service members for their wartime missions while supporting the needs of underserved communities.

"If we deploy, these are the sorts of projects we would assist with," said Cooley.

"This has been important to our soldiers, because it keeps our skills fresh. Not only is this great training for our soldiers, it also helps out the community, so everyone benefits."

Habitat for Humanity, through an agreement with the city of Hoover, provides volunteers for work projects that benefit elderly, disabled, and low-income families that qualify for a grant, said Jack Hake, director of construction for Habitat for Humanity. Hake said that most of the money for the work at Lockard's home would go to repairing the roof, which at times would crumble under volunteers' feet.

Lockard said she applied for the assistance because she was not physically or financial capable of doing the necessary maintenance on the home. She was surprised and grateful when the soldiers arrived in the early morning to help with the work.

"I never expected this," said Lockard. "This, to me, is above and beyond."