RACINOVCI, Croatia - The Minnesota National Guard's State Partnership Program with Croatia has been going on for decades. In conjunction with European Command, Minnesota units or teams take on logistics and labor-intensive projects with a village in Croatia that may need a little extra help.
The experience of helping a community in need isn't new for most Minnesota Guard members, especially Spc. Christopher Anderson from the 851st Vertical Engineer Company out of Camp Ripley Training Center.
This year marks his second trip to Croatia to help with a project that is usually around three weeks of heavy physical labor requirements to finish a project in a condensed amount of time. This year's trip includes a team of approximately 30 Minnesota Guardsmen who have less than three weeks to repair the large roof of a village community center badly damaged by flooding last year.
"Being able to come and do missions like this is awesome," said Anderson. "If you have to go to Camp Ripley every year, it becomes redundant and trips like this make your time in the Guard a lot more enjoyable and it's nice to change things up."
The project in the local community has attracted onlookers from around the village. Many are interested in the progress and the American military unit which has joined them temporarily in their villages and places they call home.
"It's a big satisfaction to build something, see people enjoy it and how it affects the community," said Anderson.
The engineers from the 851st VEC have gotten a great start working side-by-side with the Croatian Army in getting the roof prepped for repair and updates.
"I am interested in seeing how they want us to do the roof," said Anderson. "You hardly ever see these kind of clay titles and roof structure in the states. It might take us a little bit to figure out how it works the best."
Despite the language barriers between the Croatians and Americans and differences between the English and metric systems of measurement, the ability to help a village in need is a common goal between everyone involved.
"A lot of the people in the village have seen real war and real hardships, but it is really cool to see most of them being these glass-half-full people," said Anderson. "It has been great meeting them and knowing how appreciative they are that we are here."