08/19/14 — The house a wing built

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The house a wing built

By Kirsten Ballard
Published in News on August 19, 2014 2:08 PM

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Grisby Adolphus, left, sustainment flight superintendent with the 916th Air Refueling Wing, and Shamel Anderson, a senior airman, remove boards from the ceiling during a Habitat for Humanity work day in Fremont in which Air Force personnel helped prepare to build a home. About 30 volunteers took part in the project.

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First Lt. Cheryl Wagner removes nails while volunteering for a group build with Habitat for Humanity with other airmen from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. The group helped prepare for the construction of a home.

FREMONT -- Andre Suitt is no stranger to service -- or to having a hammer in his hand.

In his spare time, he's a mentor, a basketball coach and a community volunteer.

So when he heard about the chance to build a home for a local family in need, there was no question -- it was something he wanted to do.

When Suitt isn't working with young people or helping out his neighbors, he is protecting them.

Suitt, a member of the 916th Air Refueling Wing, was one of several locally stationed airmen who participated in a Habitat for Humanity build Friday in Fremont.

The airman showed up, in part, to be a role model for the lifestyle he tries to inspire in his young mentees.

"If you're not old enough to have a job, then (community involvement) keeps you out of trouble," he said. "It certainly did for me."

So when some 30 volunteers gathered on Sycamore Street to gut a house that, in the near future, will be a home, he was among the crowd.

Seymour Johnson Air Force Base is known for, among other things, its airmen's involvement in the communities outside the gate.

But Master Sgt. Kenneth Plott said their motivation to serve doesn't come from commanders.

It is simply in their blood.

"People think we have to do things like this because we're on base," he said. "We're not forced to do anything but our jobs. ... We get to take a break from work and do something great for the community."

Senior Airman Tiffany Barnes agreed.

"It's one of our core values: Service before self," she said, in between moments spent ripping nails from the walls.

Senior Airman Chynarri Brooks, like her comrades, is used to spending her free time making her community a better place.

She volunteers with Meals on Wheels and has participated in other Habitat projects.

"I thought the build would probably be fun and it would help someone out," she said.

But she did admit to another motivation.

"This is fun," she said. "I like destroying stuff."

Some of the airmen who took part in the Habitat build are members of the Airlift Tanker Association Kitty Hawk, one of the service organizations on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. The organization's chapter president, Jon Sorcic, said he is considering sending airmen to a Habitat build every month.

He believes service projects build communities and camaraderie, which is why ATA members also mentor children and visit local retirement homes.

"I've dug ditches, built walls, whatever I can do to help," Sorcic said.

Habitat ReStore operating manager Yvonne Flanagan said the best part of a Habitat build is the result -- a new house for a family.

"At Habitat for Humanity, you know why you're working -- you know the cause," she said. "You're not just working to work."