28th CES sharpens skills, helps local community

  • Published
  • By Airman Nicolas Z. Erwin
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

Airmen from the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron improve their construction skills by participating and building eight new homes in a Habitat for Humanity event in Rapid City, S.D.

These projects not only provide Airmen an opportunity to help local families by building homes, but also the ability for individuals to build a sense of purpose and self-reliance. Watching something start from nothing to become a finished project can inspire someone to have hope.

“It’s a nice place to live and a lot of people don’t get the opportunities we do, so it allows them to support their family in their time of need and really gives them some hope in life – there is a big picture to it,” said Senior Airman Kurt Nelson, a heavy structures journeyman assigned to the 28th CES.

For the 28th CES, participation in these events allows for the members to utilize different skills that they otherwise wouldn’t use. Usually with CE personnel the base is already built, and only needs to be fixed and maintained.

“Being in civil engineering, we don’t always get to go out and build stuff like this at our duty stations,” said Nelson. “We’re maintaining the base and don’t really get to go from ground up, so this really lets people use their craft and skill. Doing this will greatly help them once they go down-range, and that’s a big foot up on everybody else.”

These Habitat for Humanity events happen often, and the 28th CES is a regular volunteer group. These events assist the community, but also build teamwork and skillsets between these Airmen who will be deploying later in the year.

“We typically have a Habitat for Humanity build once a month,” said Nelson. “Since we have so many people going down-range, our commander authorized us to do this for a week so people have the know-how and get to work together.”

Although some Airmen may not have any experience in certain skills, this allows for a teaching moment between the CES team.

“A lot of the challenges is skill, and a persons’ knowledge in different areas,” said Schencke. “A lot of them [Airmen] could be [Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning] or plumbers so they wouldn’t necessarily be good at building a wall, so you can plan on teaching them as they go. We usually have one or two people out here who are good in the construction field and can lead the crews and make things easier on us.”

Even with the challenges, the support the 28th CES gives to this program and community is beneficial. With the added help that they bring, the time it takes to build these houses speeds up considerably.

“Basically what we’re doing is the main support wall in the crawlspace to support our houses coming in,” Schnecke said. “Without CE’s support, it would be very difficult to achieve our goal, and without them it could set us back a month or more, which would create problems with our subcontractors.”

The Rapid City and Ellsworth community have a long history of working together to benefit each other. Airmen spend thousands of hours volunteering to better the place they live in. While members from the 28th CES experiences differ, their sense of accomplishments is noticeable with the contributions that they assist with in the community.

The involvement Ellsworth Airmen have with the local community is key in showing that the military is actively invested in the area around the base. One opportunity for Airmen to be active in the Rapid City area is partnering with the Habitat for Humanity.

 “This event helps get the Airmen out here and give back to the community,” said John Schnecke, the site manager for the Black Hills area Habitat for Humanity branch. “It also helps the community realize that Ellsworth is not just out there as a base but are actually invested in the community and provides support.”