U.S. Air Force Academy cadets get hands-on experience building a home

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo.  — Cadets are getting hands on experience, learning to build a home, but it’s also answering a need in the Navajo nation where 35,000 people are homeless.

“From the decking, to the framing, to the whole building walls and drywall and everything else,” said Cadet 1st Class Dana Sanelli.

Civil environmental engineering students from the U.S. Air Force Academy, along with students from ROTC, the Naval Academy and West Point, are all working to build Hogans 42 and 43.

“The teaching of the cadets, the hands-on experience for the future civil engineer officers, it’s invaluable. They don’t get this training anywhere else,” said CMSgt James Young.

“You get thrown into it. You don’t know much about it. You just trust your instructors are going to teach you the right thing to do, and so far we’ve gone off without a hitch,” said Cadet 2nd Class Kyle Barboza.

Funding to build the homes comes from the Southwest Indian Foundation.

“When you get to come out there and build this stuff and fail at it and get that hands-on experience first, when it’s tied later to actual academics and the learning that they’re doing, it stick so much better,” Sanelli said.

That allows cadets to learn on the job while also lending a helping hand to those in on the Indian reserve.

“The people out there don’t have running water, they don’t have electricity,” Young said.

Even though only two hogans are built a year, officials said it’s still putting a small dent in a great need.

This is the first year cadets are building one-bedroom homes. The change comes as a request from the Southwest Indian Foundation to better serve the elderly with handicapped bathrooms and a larger living space.

The homes are expected to be shipped to the Navajo Nation in New Mexico and Arizona between July and September.

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