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NEWS | April 28, 2010

North Dakota Airmen complete first humanitarian project in Ghana

By Courtesy Story

Fargo, N.D., - Halfway through a two-week humanitarian mission to Africa, North Dakota National Guard Airmen report the mission has been going well despite the high heat index in Ghana.

About 34 members of the 119th Wing's Civil Engineer Squadron deployed to Ghana April 19 to work on two major construction projects that were kicked off by the Michigan Air National Guard's 127th Wing during the first week of April.

As of today, the North Dakota Guardsmen were 95 percent complete with one project and were well on their way with the second, said Maj. John Gibbs of the 119th Wing's Civil Engineer Squadron.

"Our North Dakota Airmen are making great progress on these important projects," said Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota adjutant general, who is in Ghana this week to observe the construction progress and meet with key leaders involved with the State Partnership Program.

"Being able to help the people of Ghana, whom we've come to know very well over the past six years, is incredibly rewarding. Furthermore, this mission is providing considerable real-world construction training in a foreign environment for our Airmen, which is incredibly beneficial for today's operating environment."

North Dakota has been partners with Ghana since 2004 as part of the program, which is sponsored by the Department of Defense. The program aligns states with partner countries to encourage the development of economic, political and military ties.

During the past six years, more than 180 North Dakota Guardsmen, Ghana military members and civilians have taken part in State Partnership Program events and workshops. The current mission is providing valuable training on contingency skills for the Airmen while helping Ghanaians.

Today, the Civil Engineer Squadron was finishing painting a complex at the Acota Academy at Burma Camp, a Ghanaian military complex near Accra, Ghana's capital. Installing doors and windows was the only task that remained after Michigan and North Dakota Airmen had replaced walls, redone electrical work, installed fans and air conditioning, plastered the exterior walls and more at the building that will be used to provide training to the Ghanaian Armed Forces.

"What we essentially did was gut the whole building and replace everything so it's new," Gibbs said in a telephone call from Ghana.

Many of the North Dakota Airmen moved on to Takoradi, in Ghana's western region, on Sunday to begin on the second major project: a complete renovation of a medical laboratory facility co-located with the Ghanaian Armed Forces' 2nd Battalion. While it's a military facility, "the civilian population does come in and seek medical assistance at the clinic," Gibbs said.

Typically hard chargers, the civil engineers have had to slow down a bit as they face a heat index in the 104- to 105-degree range.

"It takes a little getting used to," Gibbs said. "You can't work as hard as you normally would."

Proper training and follow-through on heat injury prevention has paid off, Gibbs said, and there have been no heat-related injuries for the group, which is expected home May 2.