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NEWS | Aug. 26, 2016

Building a fence brings community, military together in Lithuania

By Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Chlosta 7th Mission Support Command

SIAULIAI, Lithuania – Lithuanian and American service members worked together to make an orphanage safer and more beautiful for children living there.

Army Reserve Soldiers from the 7th Mission Support Command helped coordinate the construction of a new fence and gate and sign for the local ‘infant’ or ‘baby’ orphanage with USAR Soldiers from the 412th Theater Engineer Command and Lithuanian Soldiers and Airmen and local national contractors, Aug. 8-25, 2016.

The four Soldiers from the 7th MSC’s 457th Civil Affairs Battalion, out of Longare, Italy, and 10 Soldiers from the 375th Engineer Company, out of Huntsville, Ala., partnered with six Lithuanian Airmen and Soldiers and local national contractors each day to build the new fence and interact with the local population.  

“I am impressed they did their job professionally with no impact on the neighbors. The old fence was built almost fifty years ago,” said Audrone Kardasiene, the orphanage director. “It had broken pieces and it was heavy, and the new one is beautiful. I am amazed with the work they did and how they communicated with the Lithuanian Soldiers.”

The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new fence was held on Aug. 25, 2016 and was attended by more than 40 people, including the Mayor of Siauliai and Mr. Christopher Volciak, the acting deputy chief of mission for the U.S.  Embassy in Lithuania.

“During the last two years, we had nice relationship with the U.S. Embassy and military about the type of fence it would be and the scope of the work,” Kardasiene said.

Everyone took the work very seriously, she said.

“I am happy,” Kardasiene said. “The kids and the neighbors and the whole community is happy with this fence.”

The new fence that is now within the Lithuanian government regulations, said Lithuanian Air Force Air Base Public Affairs Officer Capt. Ieva.

“It was very important that the Soldiers from the United States came here and made the environment safe for the kids with the new fence,” she said.

The orphanage worked for seven years to get this fence project completed, Ieva said. The old fence was unstable and now the kids can run around the entire play area without issues, she added.

The ‘baby’ orphanage or ‘infants’ home facility runs on donations only, relying on the community to support kids ranging from infant to 6 years old, including kids with special needs, according to said Sgt. Elizabeth Prairie, with  Co. A, 457th Civil Affairs Battalion. The facility has a 50 percent adoption rate, she said.

“I think they have an awesome staff and facility here,” Prairie said. “The kids here are well taken care of and they are loved.”

There are 55 kids currently in the facility with a maximum up to 65, according to Ieva.

 “We also did community outreach by going door to door around the orphanage to invite them to the [ribbon cutting] ceremony,” Prairie said.

The Soldiers from the 457th were in the city for 20 days, said Spc. Stephanie Lish, civil affairs specialist, 457th Civil Affairs Battalion, Co. A.

“One of our accomplishments was we were able to bring out an interpreter for the engineers to better interact with the local national contractors,” she said.

The civil affairs team also coordinated with the Lithuanians, to get a commemorative plaque designed and donated by a local sign company, she added.

“It was fantastic to see how excited the kids were to see the Soldiers and to play with them and receive their attention,” Lish said.

“The Lithuanian Soldiers and Airmen worked side by side with the Americans to complete this project which is great example of military and civilian cooperation at its best,” Ieva said.