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    Building for a Better Life

    Building For A Better Life

    Photo By Sgt. Roger Houghton | Petty Officer 2nd Class Arron Fairley, U.S. Navy, thanks members of the 3rd Battalion,...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Roger Houghton 

    First Army

    In a Petal neighborhood backed up against the Norfolk Southern Railway, the whir of a grout-mixer and the hammering of floorboards compete with the rumble of passing trains.

    Partnered with the Hattiesburg Area Habitat For Humanity, the Soldiers of the Timberwolf battalion are hard at work building a three-bedroom home.

    For a family in need, this home means finally be able to stand on their own two feet.

    Staff Sgt. David Rodriguez Sr., a Vertical Construction Observer, Coach/Trainer, is leading the 3rd Battalion, 315th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 177th Armored Brigade’s contribution to Habitat For Humanity’s cause.

    Habitat, as it’s often called, is a non-profit organization that relies on volunteer manpower to complete its goal of helping disadvantaged people become homeowners.

    Soon after his assignment to the 3-315th Engineers, Rodriguez began coordinating with the Hattiesburg Area Habitat. The Timberwolves are often engaging with the public and giving back to the Pine Belt community by putting hard work into organizations like the Southern Pines Animal Shelter, and by cleaning up local highways.

    “We have a battalion command that’s very pro-volunteer and very much about getting out there and helping the community,” said Rodriguez.

    Rodriguez doesn’t see volunteering as an opportunity to get ahead.

    “I’ve always thought that when you volunteer, you’re taking it upon yourself to give up whatever time you have to help your fellow man,” he said.

    Rodriguez’s career within the military as a Vertical Construction Engineer has armed him with knowledge and expertise suited to Habitat For Humanity’s mission.

    “As a construction guy, that’s an aspect of Habitat that comes a little more naturally,” said Rodriguez. “People start asking questions like ‘how do I do this?’ You give them that guidance, and they say ‘hey, this guy does know what he’s doing.’”

    On top of their housing efforts, Habitat hosts programs that teach people how to pull themselves out of tough financial situations and stay ahead of the curve.

    Akwete Muhammad is the volunteer coordinator for the Hattiesburg area Habitat For Humanity, which has assisted families in building 70 houses in the area.

    “We help people help themselves,” said Muhammad.

    Partner families are required to put in “sweat equity” as part of their commitment. Each family must contribute a minimum of 450 volunteer hours to the Hattiesburg Area Habitat For Humanity program in addition to taking a financial readiness class. When they receive the house, they must pay back a no-profit mortgage over the course of 20 to 30 years.

    “Habitat has built into its business dynamic that you have to earn everything you need in life,” said Muhammad. “It allows people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”

    Muhammad, who comes from a military family, understands the core values Soldiers possess that drive them to volunteer.

    “You guys are special men and women in uniform,” said Muhammad. “You’re already serving our wonderful country, now to come out here and take it up a notch to help this family get into a home and call themselves homeowners. It’s really a gift that keeps on giving.”

    The Timberwolves have been bringing both numbers and know-how to houses in need of building to help Habitat fulfill their mission. While working on houses, they are led by Mark McNair, the construction manager for the Hattiesburg-area Habitat.

    Among many other responsibilities within the organization, McNair oversees construction and teaches volunteers. With hundreds of projects under his belt, McNair said that one of the hardest parts of his job is teaching people instead of building things himself.

    “We have some people who come, and they’ve never done hard work,” said McNair. “When these guys are here, they’re gonna get done faster than most people because they can take instruction and they understand it.”

    Working with their hands and thinking on their feet, the Timberwolves quickly adapted to the project’s challenges. In constant communication with one-another, they buzzed about the house, transforming it as they went.

    The Timberwolves efforts with Habitat for Humanity can be found all over the Pine Belt area as they help with multiple projects between Hattiesburg and Petal. Making up almost all of Habitat’s labor force, volunteers like the Timberwolves are vital assets.

    “Habitat For Humanity can’t function without the volunteers that we have,” explained McNair. “They are the backbone of getting a house completed so that we can move forward, with the more volunteers that we have, to complete the homes.”

    Volunteering may be tiring work, but for the Timberwolves, it isn’t without reward.

    “One of the reasons I leave here with such a great feeling is the team camaraderie,” said Rodriguez. “This is one of the times we get to come together as an entire battalion and engage with each-other. Also the work that we’re doing, giving back and helping. Because of those two different aspects of it, for me personally, it’s an incredible feeling.”



    Date Taken: 09.12.2019
    Date Posted: 09.12.2019 15:25
    Story ID: 340272
    Location: PETAL, MS, US 

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