TUCSON, Ariz. --
At the break of dawn on a bright and sunny desert morning, more than 45 individuals gathered at a construction site in Tucson, Ariz., freshly armed with hard hats, nail aprons and safety goggles, ready to begin their first day of building houses. However, these weren't the typical new construction worker recruits...they were all Airmen.
More than 45 Airmen from 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) and the 355th Fighter Wing devoted six hours of their off-duty time to give back to the Tucson community by building houses for Habitat for Humanity in the Copper Vista sub-division, March 14.
"Airmen from the base are the easiest group of volunteers that we deal with," said Emily Jean Herrell, Habitat for Humanity Volunteer Coordinator. "We know that all of the military members are really hard workers and we always get excited to have them out here because we can give them some of the tougher projects...they always exceed our expectations."
Davis-Monthan Airmen have donated 1800 volunteer hours to Habitat for Humanity in the past 12-months alone. During their volunteer shift, Airmen were given shovels to dig landscaping holes, nail guns to hang protective sheets of paper and wire cutters to cut chicken wire for exterior stucco placement. Many of the Airmen were out of their every day comfort zones as dental technicians, maintainers, civil engineers, intelligence specialists and air operations center technicians, but that didn't stop them from completing the mission.
Maj. Jennifer Johnson, 612th Air and Space Operations Center, spent the day digging huge holes in the front yards of new Habitat for Humanity homes.
"The project manager told me to dig and I just started digging...that's what military members do (listen and follow directions)."
Senior Airman Andrea Schans, 612th Air and Space Operations Center, and Staff Sgt. Jeremy Lopez, 12th Air Force, spent the day cutting chicken wire.
"What are the dimensions again?" asked Schans to Lopez as they worked as a team to cut wire and hand it up to the roof crew for placement.
Laughter intermixed with sweat (and a little blood) as these Airmen nailed and cut their way through six hours of hard labor. Each of them left their day of work feeling a great sense of accomplishment and were proud of the fact that they were able to give back.
"It's important for us as Airmen to give back to a community that gives so much back to us," said Maj. Andres Benitez, 612th Air and Space Operations Center, and military coordinator for the event, who has been volunteering with Habitat for Humanity for the past two years.
"The biggest reward is seeing the families move into the houses after they're complete...my hope is to raise awareness about this fantastic program to be able to get more volunteers to come out and help Habitat for Humanity in their mission to provide home low cost home ownership to deserving families."
Habitat for Humanity's goal is to build safe, decent, affordable, quality houses for people in need. They rely on donations of money, land, material, and time to construct each home. Each future Habitat homeowner is required to complete a minimum of 200 'sweat equity' hours. The hours are completed by volunteering at the construction site and at Habitat's HabiStore. Additionally, homeowner education classes and workshops are a mandatory part of the sweat equity requirement. The classes are designed to help future homeowners prepare for homeownership.
For more information on how to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity:http://www.habitattucson.org/volunteer/