USAF cadets help out Habitat

Air Force Academy students routinely travel to locations across the country to participate in the week-long service project hosted by Habitat for Humanity throughout the year.  For the first time, the academy sent eight cadets to Bryan as part of the school’s spring break seasonal Collegiate Challenge. Back row, from left: Carter Blunden, freshman from Washington; Rachel Budzinsky, freshman from North Carolina; Whitney Hoermann, junior from Cedar Park, Texas; Josh Krutz, freshman from Maryland. Front row, from left: Shots Gabisonia, freshman from the Republic of Georgia; Franny Verville, freshman from Illinois; Demani Hansford, sophomore from Maryland; D.J. Bautista, junior from California.

Eight U.S. Air Force Academy cadets have arrived in Bryan-College Station, where they are spending their spring break repairing homes with Habitat for Humanity.

Students of the Air Force Academy routinely travel to locations across the country to participate in the week-long service project hosted by the national nonprofit throughout the year. For the first time, the Academy sent cadets to Bryan as part of the school’s spring break seasonal Collegiate Challenge. Universities can use Habitat for Humanity’s website to be matched with a office looking to host a team of volunteers.

The young men and women of the Academy’s Bryan team, who had not met before this project, arrived in town Saturday afternoon.

“We’re staying in a very small [Habitat] house, close together, and we were together for a 15-hour car ride,” said Whitney Hoermann, a junior cadet from Cedar Park. “And, of course, working together bonds you.”

So far the students have worked on two homes in Bryan, their work beginning Tuesday after some sightseeing around the area. By the end of the week, they will have fixed roofs. repainted and completed landscaping tasks on three houses in the city.

Most of the group said they’ve never before participated in any large community service projects like this. Demani Hansford, a sophomore cadet from Maryland, said he enjoyed being able to meet one of the homeowners, who joined the students on their tasks.

“I think it was meaningful, because we were working on the house that person is going to live in,” he said.

The cadets were assigned a group and location randomly.

“I wanted to do something new,” said freshman cadet Carter Blunden of Washington. “I enjoy meeting new people, going to different places, and I knew I wouldn’t get that going home.”

“I went home for spring break my freshmen year, and I did the same old stuff,” Hansford said. “But this time I get to make an impact, which is pretty great. ... I haven’t really told myself at any point that I wish I’d gone somewhere else. This has been really worth it.”

Aaron Shipp, repair program manager with Habitat Bryan-College Station, oversaw the cadets at each project location.

“They are always asking what the next step is and what they can do to help,” Shipp said on Wednesday afternoon. “There has never been a period of slowness with them. What else can you expect from future [service members]?”

Shipp said he watched as the cadets worked seamlessly as a cohesive unit with efficient collaboration.

“You show them something you want them to do, and you don’t have to explain it twice,” he said. “They are our military’s best and brightest.”

The cadets will drive back to Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Saturday. Until then, they will continue to work hard and learn a little about Aggie culture. Hoermann said the team have already visited the Dixie Chicken and watched Texas A&M Corps cadets perform drill exercises on campus.

”Texas A&M and [the Air Force Academy] both have tradition and a mindset of service,” she said. “We share a lot in that way.”

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