Inside the Gates: Alaska Air National Guard builds homes for Cherokee Nation veterans

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 3:10 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska Air National Guard’s civil engineers are trained to build infrastructure and other resources while on deployment, but a squadron’s recent trip to Oklahoma built up more than practical work-based knowledge.

Thirty-eight members of the 176th Civil Engineering Squadron spent 15 days there in May to help build new homes for those who served.

“They paved the way for us,” said Airman 1st Class Donrail Ingram. “Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do this.”

The squadron took part in the Cherokee Veterans Housing Initiative, a collaboration between the Department of Defense’s Innovative Readiness Training program and the Cherokee Nation. The goal is to build 21 new single-family homes and supporting infrastructure for Cherokee veterans and their families over three years.

“It feels good,” Ingram said. “I felt like I did something bigger than I would ever do. I never thought I’d see myself helping build houses.”

During the 15-day training in Oklahoma, the Air National Guardsmen worked on four different home sites while the 176th Force Support Squadron’s Services Flight served 3,355 meals.

Senior Master Sgt. Michel Keegan, enlisted leader of the squadron, said they experienced some challenges from Mother Nature during their deployment, but skill and determination helped them push through.

“It rained for a long time. We actually lost 36 hours of construction time because of that,” said Senior Master Sgt. Michel Keegan. “Still accomplished putting the whole building up with the exception of windows and doors.”

Despite the challenge, the squadron received compliments about their “quality work” from the people of the Cherokee Nation.

“They’ve paved the way for us for decades to come,” Keegan said. “This is our time to shine, our opportunity to give back.”

Troops from every branch of the military will work on the new homes until all 21 are built.

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