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Airmen team up to build shelter

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- The Battle Mountain Humane Society of Hot Springs, S.D., went up in flames, April 4, killing 11 dogs trapped inside. Word of the tragedy spread quickly throughout the Black Hills, prompting the community to help those affected. Among those to respond were Airmen of the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron who volunteered their own time and skills April 13 to help those in need.

"We built two temporary shelters that are about 20 feet long by 8 feet wide and 8 feet deep so we can get the animals a home ... and out of the elements until we're able to get a permanent structure built," said Airman 1st Class Anthony Russell, 28th CES water fuels maintenance apprentice who helped organize the base volunteer effort.

All of the materials used to build the structures were donated by various businesses and individuals throughout the area. The supplies for the no-kill shelter, along with other vital items, were essential to ensuring the animals were cared for properly.

The volunteer effort provided by Ellsworth volunteers not only demonstrated their commitment to helping those in need, but strengthened the bond between the base and local communities as well as within the squadron.

"It creates a whole lot of camaraderie within the squadron, not just within a shop," said Russell. "I think it's important our Airmen get involved with the community that has supported us for over 70 years and give back to them because they've given us a lot of support."

A new beginning is on the horizon for the animal shelter, and the 28th CES Airmen are helping to draft the plans to rebuild the entire facility.

"The shelter is gonna be bigger and better," said Tonia Wagner, Battle Mountain Humane Society owner. "We're gonna build a new building. We're gonna build other buildings too to go along with that. And we're still functioning. If someone needs to bring a dog in we'll take them."

Wagner thanked the Airmen for volunteering their time and helping to better the lives of the displaced animals.

"Thank you very much," she said. "I'm not very good at words. We couldn't do it without them. The dogs are gonna be protected now."

The permanent facility in Hot Springs is tentatively scheduled to be completed in August 2012.