Military, Crow leaders tour veteran home construction site

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Lealan Buehrer & Tech. Dawn Rademaker
  • 182nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Delegates from the Crow Nation, the Montana National Guard and the Department of Defense’s Innovative Readiness Training program toured the IRT’s housing construction site July 26 during distinguished visitor’s day in Crow Agency, Montana.

The IRT program is a civil-military relations cooperative that provided hands-on training for National Guard service members who built and renovated homes for Crow Tribe military veterans. The “Montana Crow Tribe Housing 2017” assignment, scheduled for May through August, facilitated four partially completed homes, two new homes and 10 house renovations.

“It’s a big initiative on the reservation here of working for the veterans, taking care of our elderly veterans, and all veterans both male and female,” Toni Cuny, executive director of the Apsaalooke Nation Housing Authority. “These veterans need a roof over their head. We have many homeless veterans who are here. There’s many living with families that there’s like maybe 20 people in a home. They’ll now be able to have a home of their own for not only themselves, but for their family and grandchildren also.”

Air Force Capt. Miles Shepard, a project manager with the Innovative Readiness Training program, said that the project benefitted both the Crow Nation and military members.

The cooperative combined labor from the National Guard with supplies furnished by the Crow Nation.

“It’s a great program because it’s a win-win,” said Shepard. “It’s a benefit for the community…and we get real-world training.”

Johnna Snell, a former automated logistical specialist with the U.S. Army Reserve, was one of the Crow tribal members who received a home renovation from Army National Guard and Air National Guard civil engineer units.

Her family gifted her her grandparent’s family home, but it needed significant repairs after sitting abandoned for nearly 20 years.

“I’ve been working to get it livable again, but just with working and being a single mom, it’s not always as fast I want it to be,” said Snell. “So, this is a great experience, a great opportunity.”

She spoke during the distinguished visitor’s day opening ceremony to share her story with tribal and military leaders and to show appreciation for all those involved in the project.

“It means everything to me. It’s a home for my children,” said Snell. “It means a lot to bring my family back to the reservation and have [the home] livable again.”

Distinguished visitor’s day tour took place during the second-to-last two-week rotation, in which construction is expected to be nearly completed.

“I’m really pleased with all the progress that I’ve seen,” said Army Brig. Gen. Robert Sparing, the assistant adjutant general-Army for the Montana National Guard. “They’ve done a great job, and what a better way to help our veterans out. That’s the whole thing behind the IRT, is to come up here into the Crow Nation in Montana and help our veterans out.”

For more information on the Innovative Readiness Training program, please visit