Alaska Air National Guardsmen Build Houses for Cherokee Veterans

June 10, 2021Hannah Ray Lambert
Alaska Air National Guardsmen Build Houses Cherokee Veterans

Senior Airman Ryan Pickett, with the 176th Wing’s Civil Engineer Squadron Fire and Emergency Services Flight, finishes pouring concrete on a home site May 24, 2021, in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Clay Cook.

Dozens of Alaska Air National Guardsmen with the 176th Civil Engineer Squadron and other 176th Wing units helped build houses for Cherokee Nation veterans in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, as part of the Department of Defense’s Innovative Readiness Training program.

The Cherokee Veterans Housing Initiative is a three-year collaboration between the IRT program and the Cherokee Nation for constructing single-family homes and supporting infrastructure for eligible veterans and their families.

Oklahoma Air National Guardsmen broke ground in April on a 30-acre lot. Then, for two weeks at the end of May, 38 Alaska Guardsmen dug trenches, poured concrete foundations, and finished the rough framing and roofing for one entire house, according to the Alaska National Guard.

Alaska Air National Guardsmen Houses Cherokee Veterans
Airmen with the 176th Wing’s Civil Engineer Squadron raise an exterior wall on the first home in the Cherokee Veterans Housing Initiative May 18, 2021, in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Clay Cook.

In peacetime, the 176th Civil Engineer Squadron maintains base facilities and infrastructure and coordinates with civilian contractors. The IRT program offers hands-on training, giving joint military units a chance to improve their deployment readiness and cross-train among the Air Force Specialty Codes. 

“We are taking back some residential building skills and much-needed concrete pour and finish experience,” said Senior Master Sgt. Michael Keegan, a senior enlisted leader for the 176th CES.

Guardsmen and reservists from the Marines, Army, Navy, and Air Force will pick up where the 176th Wing left off and finish 21 new homes for Cherokee veterans. 

Alaska Air National Guardsmen Build Houses For Cherokee Veterans
Guardsmen with the 176th Civil Engineer Squadron stand alongside Brig. Gen. Anthony Stratton, 176th Wing commander, as they near the end of their participation in the Cherokee Veterans Housing Initiative May 27, 2021, in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Clay Cook.

Master Sgt. Ferdinand Torralba said the Guardsmen had been happy to give back to the community in a unique way.

“A family will be residing in the homes we built for many years to come,” Torralba said. “Additionally, knowing it will be a disabled-veteran family provides a sense of honor as we are giving back to one of our fellow U.S. Armed Forces members for their service.” 

The new housing project will be named in honor of the late Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Mige Glory, who served as an Army clerk for the 122nd Evacuation Hospital in Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Read Next: How the 1st American To Summit Everest Trained Special Forces and Grew REI

Hannah Ray Lambert
Hannah Ray Lambert

Hannah Ray Lambert is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die who previously covered everything from murder trials to high school trap shooting teams. She spent several months getting tear gassed during the 2020-2021 civil unrest in Portland, Oregon. When she’s not working, Hannah enjoys hiking, reading, and talking about authors and books on her podcast Between Lewis and Lovecraft.

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