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Humanitarian-civic assistance project underway

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ryan Zeski
  • 127th Wing
Through the combined efforts of Latvian Soldiers and Michigan Airmen, a kindergarten in rural Silmala, Latvia, is under renovation.

The Soldiers of the Latvian National Armed Forces and the Airmen from the Michigan Air National Guard's 127th Civil Engineer Squadron are working together on a Humanitarian-Civic Assistance project supported by several organizations. For the Latvians and the Michiganders, the project is the latest in a long-line of cooperative efforts begun when the nation on the Baltic Sea and the state on the Great Lakes became aligned in the State Partnership for Peace program in 1993.

The school has just received a new roof and will also receive façade repairs, insulation and installation of lightning protection. When finished, the children of Silmala will have a clean, safe environment in which to.

HCA projects are unique since the repair and construction is performed by military engineers as part of an annual deployment for training program. Over 35 Airmen from the 127th Civil Engineering Squadron have traveled more than 5,000 miles to take part in this HCA project.  While working on the project the 127th CES Airmen will be working side-by-side with a team of Latvian National Armed Forces engineers.

"One of the biggest challenges with this project we came across is doing work we're not used to traditionally doing, it forces us to come outside our comfort zone," said Master Sgt. Darrell Bublitz, 127th CES project coordinator. "Working closely with the Latvians has allowed us to overcome this task."

Projects like these offer training opportunities for both U.S. Airmen and Latvian soldiers, as well as providing a valuable benefit for the local population. These deployments for training, known as DFTs, allow units to experience first-hand the issues they could encounter when working away from their home station.

"We are constantly learning new things from this project and achieving a lot of goals at the same time," said Sgt. Raitis Zeps, Latvian National Armed Forces commander of construction platoon of engineering technical company.

With such a labor intensive project multiple Air National Guard units were called upon in order to reach the target completion date. The 138th CES from the Oklahoma Air National Guard, 200th and 202nd RED HORSE Squadron shared the project with two week rotations.

"It doesn't matter where they are from each engineer is trained the same," said Lt. Col. Todd Rupright, 127th CES duration project manager. "This allows them to easily pick up where the last team left off."

Silmala is a small town located in the Rezekne region of Latvia. Located near the border with Russia, Rezekne is the largest region in the country and Silmala's rural territory is home to about 3,000 people.

Participation between the U.S. European Command, the U.S. National Guard, U.S. Embassy's Office of Defense Cooperation, U.S. Air Force Contraction Office, Latvian National Armed Forces and the Rezekne District Municipality allowed for the creation of the project.

The project began on June 2nd and is set to be complete by mid-July.

The kindergarten was originally built in the early 1980s, when Latvia was a part of the former Soviet Union. The country re-gained its independence in 1991 and became partners with Michigan two years later as one of the original participants in the SPP program.