IRT Mission to Help Build Homes for Cherokee Veterans

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Danielle Lofton
  • 175th Wing

Members from the 175th Wing, Maryland Air National Guard partnered with the 123rd Airlift Wing, Kentucky Air National Guard, to help build homes for Cherokee Veterans in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, July 26 - August 6, as part of the Defense Department’s Innovative Readiness Training program, or IRT. 

“These homes will be a change in the way the veterans are living,” said Bryan Warner, Deputy Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. “The benefits of this program are going to be priceless to the Cherokee Veterans.” 

There was an average of 80 personnel working on the site at any given time, one of them being TSgt Wesley Diefenbach, a structures NCOIC for the 175th Civil Engineering Squadron, MDANG. 

“This type of training is pertinent to every career field,” said Diefenbach. “You have everything from structures, HVAC, electrical, and water and fuel systems maintenance. You have to do everything from the ground up in a house. It gives everybody the opportunity to cross-train, as well as get hands-on training for almost 50-75% of their training core tasks.”

“We're so proud of how our airmen and all our joint services come together in these types of environments to provide a great service to our American communities.” said COL George Koklanaris, Deputy Director of Innovative Readiness Training. 

“This is a very joint environment. We have all six components of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force Reserve, as well as the Air National Guard and the Army National Guard, all working together on these projects. So even though one service branch will lead a mission. The other services, oftentimes play critical roles, and also being on the site and bring all their skill sets together to put these great projects together.” 

Guardsmen from 23 states worked on this project with the Air National Guard being the lead service component. A projected total of 67,000 training hours was completed over the course of 16 weeks. 

Senior Airman Johan Williams, who is currently cross-training from the Medical Group into civil engineering, found the training to be an amazing experience. 

“It’s a different type of environment, we’re outside a lot more and it’s a lot more work and very hands-on,” said Williams. “It feels remarkable knowing that it's a community-sponsored event. and we’re helping out people in this area. The homeless population is high in veterans and we want to serve them because they served us first.” 

This IRT mission not only provided invaluable training for members in civil engineering but also allowed members from the Services Flight to get hands-on experience preparing and serving over 200 meals a day to all the personnel working on site. 

For the next three years, Guardsmen and Reservists from the Marines, Army, Navy, and Air Force from across the country will continue to work to build 21 new homes for Cherokee veterans.