U.S. Air Guardsmen Renovate School in Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2008 The latest National Guard State Partnership Program project was completed Aug. 13, as U.S. Air National Guardsmen and Bosnian troops put the final touches on the Vuk Karadzic Elementary School in Vlasenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Air Force Master Sgt. Cathy Burns, a member of the Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Civil Engineer Squadron, drills a hole for mounting a light switch at a primary school in Vlasenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 15, 2008, as part of a humanitarian civic action project under the National Guard’s State Partnership Program. U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Wayde R. Minami
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Air Guardsmen from Maryland’s 175th Civil Engineer Squadron deployed to Vlasenica, about 37 miles north of Sarajevo, from July 13 to July 25, renovating the 33,000-square-foot, three-level structure. About 15 of the 65 Maryland engineers remained for another three weeks to work with 34 Air Guardsmen from California’s 163rd Civil Engineer Squadron as they took over the project, Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Janice Grennon, a Maryland Air Guard spokesman, said.
The engineers completely refurbished the school’s interior structure, Grennon said, installing a new electrical system, lighting, smoke detectors and back-up power generators and repairing walls and ceilings. They also repaired minor plumbing and masonry issues and installed new interior doors and windows.
Air flow and mold were major concerns because of the potential health risks to the school’s more than 700 students and faculty, Grennon said. Bosnian soldiers washed the ceilings and walls with bleach while the U.S. Air Guardsmen concentrated on installing new electricity and lighting and repairing the ceilings to increase air flow, he added.
Grennon said the townspeople were extremely supportive of the efforts. Initially, he said, the engineers were cautious because the area is mostly Serbian, and many local people may have harbored hard feelings toward Americans because of the U.S. stance during their civil war in the mid-1990s.
However, the project was finished without incident. Grennon said he and his unit felt very welcomed and that the project couldn’t have been complete without the town’s positive support.
“The people received us very well and went out of their way to help us with anything they could,” he said.
Grennon said he hopes the renovations will eliminate potential health issues and increase the students’ ability to learn. He and his fellow airmen look forward to their next mission there, he added.
“The project was great on a lot of levels,” he said. “It was fantastic opportunity, and most of the unit is already talking and asking about when we can go back.”