Seabees Build Homes with Southwest Indian Foundation

Story Number: NNS160831-03Release Date: 8/31/2016 8:47:00 AM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adam Henderson, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion FIVE Public Affairs

GALLUP, New Mexico (NNS) -- Active duty and reserve Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 22, NMCB 5, and Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303 worked alongside the Southwest Indian Foundation (SWIF) to help build homes for Navajo Indian families, Aug. 26.

The construction is under the Department of Defense Innovative Readiness Training Program (IRT), which allows military service members the opportunity to receive unique training while simultaneously providing quality services to communities throughout the United States.

A total of 125 Seabees worked over 1,276 man-days conducting carpentry, electrical, plumbing, roofing, painting, and drywall work alongside SWIF employees, building homes from their factory in Gallup.

"This project has significant requirement for carpenters, electricians, plumbers, roofers, etc.," said Capt. Steven Kelley, commodore, 1st Naval Construction Regiment. "Many personnel will come to the project [with] very little hands on construction experience, and they are able to learn from skilled journeyman."

SWIF, created in 1968 by Father Dunstan Schmidlin, offers a wide range of assistance programs. A non-profit, charitable organization, it relies solely on private donations to provide services such as housing, education and food assistance to Native Americans. They have built more than 200 houses since 1998, aiding the Navajo, Zuni, Hopi and other pueblo tribes of the area.

This IRT project began in 1997, and since then, the foundation has built more than 300 homes for families in need.

"This IRT is the real deal," said Chief Builder Brian Mixan, NMCB 22's project manager. "This is exactly the way that we build residential construction in the real world, thus the skills [the Seabees] obtained translate into employable skills outside of the Navy. They also translate into experience that they can use on [Naval Construction Force] projects in the future."

Most of the homes built under the IRT program are located within 60 miles of Gallup.

SWIF manages the permitting, material procurement, site grading and order of precedence for work, and provides subject matter experts on projects. Most of the phases of construction are completed in the SWIF warehouse, with certain tools provided by an Air Force Reserve component.

"Since I joined the Navy, I have never gotten to do such a wide range of rate work in such a short period of time," said Construction Electrician 3rd class Tanner Church, assigned to NMCB 5.

The mission for the Seabees was to build one, two or three bedroom homes in a safe training environment. They completed all the phases of residential construction from the floor to the roof, and also supported SWIF's crew with equipment operators and builders to help grade the house site and work orders.

"Every Seabee I talked to was proud of the impact they are making helping improve the living conditions of families in need," said Kelley.

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