NEWS | July 3, 2014

Minnesota partners for peace help renovate Croatian school

By Staff Sgt. Austen Adriaens Minnesota National Guard

OGULIN, Croatia - Air National Guard Airmen from the Minnesota 133rd and 148th Civil Engineering Squadrons and Montana 219th Red Horse Squadron teamed up with the Croatian Army to renovate bathrooms at an elementary school in Ogulin, Croatia.

The elementary school renovation is part of a Humanitarian Civic Assistance, program supported by U.S. Army, United States European Command and 409th Contracting Support Brigade. Croatia is the Minnesota’s “sister state,” which is part of the National Guard State Partnership Program. The program has been building global relationships for over 20 years on international civil-military affairs projects such as this one. These combined efforts cultivate diverse working conditions and enhance global operations.

Minnesota is not providing the construction labor alone in this endeavor. Airmen from the 133rd and 148th Civil Engineering Squadrons are working with four Airmen from the Montana Air National Guard 219th Red Horse Squadron. Montana was one of the first Air Guard units to start construction work in Croatia. Together these Airmen are employing their unique skill sets, manpower, and equipment to help aid in this effort. The Croatian Army is providing lodging, food, transportation, translators and augmented labor. The camaraderie between all participants is high and everyone is looking forward to completing the project.

This Deployment for Training immerses these Airmen into situations where they are able to venture out of their specified Air Force Specialty Code. One of the the younger Airmen on location just graduated from structures technical training back in April 2014. He and other Airmen are encouraged to take part in performing different construction tasks around the job site. This allows for Airmen in the structures shop to see how work is accomplished in the utilities shop and vice versa. Furthermore, these Airmen are learning new construction procedures from the Croatian Army. The partnerships and experiences hear are crafting long lasting relationships for years to come.

“For some of these Airmen, it is their first DFT … and they are working with two different Air National Guard units and the Croatian Army,” said Chief Master Sgt. Kyle Johnson.

Planning and resilience are additional aspects to this project. There may be many things that go amiss in construction and difficulties vary from site to site. An Airman’s ability to remain resilient is key to project completion. During the trip, obsticles are documented and discussed daily. A majority of the tools were brought to Croatia by the 133rd and 148th Civil Engineering Squadrons and 219th Red Horse Squadron.

However, there are some items that are unforseen or difficult to transport. The Croation Army provided larger items such as cement mixers and jackhammers, significantly reducing rental costs and project completion times. Being able to forecast these scenarios on future deployments will create a more efficient and cost-effective military.

“The biggest take away will be resilience … need to be able to adjust to the conditions provided and see the project through to completion,” said Capt. Fernando Nacionales.