VICKSBURG, Miss. - Seven U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers, nine Macedonia soldiers and two Macedonia contractors went back to kindergarten Aug. 4-26.
The 412th Engineer Company, based Scranton, Pennsylvania, worked alongside Macedonia Soldiers and contractors to renovate the doors and windows of the kindergarten Femo Kulakov in Negotino, Macedonia.
"It's been a pleasurable experience with our partnership with the Soldier's of the Army of Republic of Macedonia to include civilian contractors," said Master Sgt. Darryl Cheatham, project noncommissioned officer in charge, 412th TEC, in an email. "This humanitarian civic assistance mission is a great example of how two countries and military are jointly advancing the capabilities of engineers."
The 412th Theater Engineer Command, from Vicksburg, Mississippi, coordinated this humanitarian civil assistance operation for the U.S. Army European Command. In Macedonia, the Army of the Republic of Macedonia and the Office of Defense Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy Skopje were instrumental in ensuring the project was a success.
The team of U.S. and Macedonian Soldiers were provided materials and on-the-job training on the proper installation of 120 frames, 250 window panes and 14 doors from two Macedonian contractors. The Soldiers also painted and sealed the windows and fascia and installed security bars over select windows.
"Working with the Macedonians has reshaped a common understanding that no matter who we are, working together as a team to overcome challenges for a common goal can bring out the best in us all," said Lt. Col. James M. Lewis, assistant planner, 412th Theater Engineer Command, from Hayward, Wisconsin, in an email.
The Soldiers accomplished their goal and the renovations of the kindergarten were complete. But, the renovations were only part of the experience.
"I have not only earned a greater view of my job, but I have also earned a greater global view," said Spc. David Mannheimer, 412th Engineer Company, in an email.
Some Soldiers also took away a connection with their Macedonian coworkers.
"I developed new relationships with Macedonian soldiers and civilians that will last a lifetime," said Spc. Jeffrey Grimes, 412th Engineer Company in an email.
The Soldiers who worked on the project enjoyed it and are hoping for another chance to hone their skills and create more international bonds.
"Soldiers from the 412th TEC were very excited at this opportunity, and look forward to future engagements," said Cheatham.