Chișinău, Moldova –
Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve began refurbishing the only school for hearing-impaired students here June 3, working in partnership with officials from the Republic of Moldova and U.S. European Command.
The humanitarian project will demolish the existing kitchen at Special School #12, update electrical service and plumbing, and install new tile, appliances and an improved food preparation area, according to U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Phillip Howard, commander of the Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron. Outside the school, a new basketball court will be added.
"We're here to improve the school for the students, and that's the most important thing for us," Howard said of his unit, which is based in Louisville, Kentucky. "We want to do everything we can to make this a great project for the community."
Assisting in the overall effort are U.S. Army Reservists from the 457th Civil Affairs Detachment, Grafenwoehr, Germany, who are supporting communication and cultural understanding between the Air Guard and local Moldovan community.
"Our mission is to support the engineers by making sure the community understands why they are here," explained U.S. Army Maj. Kris Chow, civil affairs team commander.
At the same time, the project also provides the Kentucky Air Guardsmen with "an outstanding opportunity to train in a deployed environment while strengthening bilateral relations with our Moldovan colleagues," Howard said. "We're excited to be here and excited about the project."
Working side by side with the Airmen are five Moldovan National Army soldiers stationed at the Military Academy of the Moldovan National Army. The Academy is providing living quarters for more than 35 Kentucky Airmen during the project, which is sponsored by the Office of Defense Cooperation Moldova and U.S. European Command, with funding provided by the National Guard Bureau.
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Brendan Bartlett, chief of ODC Moldova, emphasized that no nation can confront today's challenges alone.
"What the Air National Guardsmen do here will have a profound effect on the school and on the community as a whole," he said. "We have had a long-standing relationship with the National Guard Bureau and are very grateful for their efforts here."
In addition to the renovation project, the Airmen are volunteering their time to help with minor repairs to La Via Moldova, a local after-school program for at-risk students.
The Kentucky Air Guard is expected to complete its portion of the project in mid-June before handing off the remainder of the work to the Iowa Air National Guard's 185th Civil Engineer Squadron from Sioux City, Iowa.
The overall scope of the project is two-fold, according to U.S. Air Force Capt. Adam McIntyre, the duration project manager and an engineering officer for the 185th CES.
"This project allows Guardsmen to utilize and hone their skills in new and challenging environment," said McIntyre. "But, we are also here to build a better future for the Moldovan people."