News: IRT provides 200th home to Navajo family
Story by Melissa Chatham
GALLUP, N.M. – A ribbon cutting ceremony took place here Thursday to dedicate the 200th home built through the Innovative Readiness Training mission Operation Footprint providing local Navajo families in need with housing.
IRT leadership along with the Air National Guard and other members of the military, Veterans Administration, Southwest Indian Foundation, Navajo Housing Authority, and other local agencies were in attendance during the ceremony.
Since 1997, the military through the IRT program has participated in Operation Footprint working with local agencies such as the Southwest Indian Foundation and Navajo Housing Authority. This mission helps address underserved residents in the Navajo community.
Operation Footprint has provided civil engineering support, building and furnishing homes to less fortunate Navajo families throughout the Gallup region. Other aspects of the mission have provided waterlines, upgrades and reconstruction of the St. Michaels Association for Special Education in Window Rock, Ariz., increasing the quality of life in these communities.
“The training we are receiving here is irreplaceable,” said Senior Airman Brian Saucier, a structural apprentice of the 101st Civil Engineering Squadron, Maine ANG. “More important, it really feels good to see how people live here and see what we can offer them to improve their lives.”
During the dedication ceremony, Col. Scott Sauter, from the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, spoke to attendees about the significant training the military has received through Operation Footprint.
“Instead of the community thanking the military, we would like to thank you for bringing the military into your community and providing them with training that Reserve and Guard members might not otherwise get,” said Sauter. “Thank you for the opportunity to train for readiness so that [the military] may provide the freedoms we enjoy each day.”
The IRT mission provides a two-fold benefit; it provides military members a unique opportunity to get hands-on training while providing local communities a benefit as the resulting of the training. Military members receive training and the local community is provided much needed facilities.
“Today is about honoring this land, this home, and this family and to celebrate that they will be allowed the opportunity to grow to see their grandchildren reach new heights," said Roberta Roberts, the public relations director for the Navajo Housing Authority.
Following the ceremony, Vera Vecenti-Hoskie and Jimmy Hoskie along with their daughter Regina and extended family walked through the newly constructed home that was given to them free of charge through Operation Footprint.
“The military is fighting for our country, but I never knew they would help build homes too,” said Vera. “I am thankful for them. We were very cold and freezing, but have better living conditions now!”
Vecenti-Hoskie and Hoskie said they were excited to have a stove, refrigerator and appliances, but their favorite part about the house was that they would have running water.
The Hoskie family went on to say that they believe their prayers were answered and are so humbled by this experience. They wanted to thank the Southwest Indian Foundation staff, all branches of the military that participated in Operation Footprint and everyone that was involved in building their new home.
“People from all over the world have come to help us and that’s truly a blessing!” said Hoskie.
“All of my days, I could see the outside world with their modern home and modern facilities,” said Vecenti-Hoskie. “I prayed that my family would have that someday and boy, that prayer was answered today.”
Operation Footprint has proven to be invaluable training for the military and will continue to help Navajo families desperately in need of homes. The request for IRT support has already been approved for 2013.
The 171st Civil Engineering Squadron, Pennsylvania ANG, 158th Civil Engineering Squadron, Vermont ANG, 210th Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers Squadron, New Mexico ANG, 101st Civil Engineering Squadron, Maine ANG, 110th Civil Engineering Squadron, Michigan ANG, 159th Civil Engineering Squadron, Louisiana ANG, 716th Engineering Battalion, New York Army National Guard, active-duty Navy from San Diego, Calif., along with multiple active duty and reserve units mostly out of Michigan.