ADAZI MILITARY BASE, Latvia -- More than 40 kilometers outside of Latvia's capital city, Riga, there is a small orphanage that is home to approximately 35 children.
Despite being from broken homes -- due to either drug abuse or alcoholism -- these disenfranchised children find hope and normalcy on the grounds of Spriditis Orphanage in Kemeri, Latvia.
However, because of finances, the state-funded, folklore-themed orphanage has to cut back on expenses.
Fortunately, a joint effort between the U.S. Embassy to Latvia, charity funds from LNK Group, and the 'Sky Soldiers' from the 173rd Airborne Brigade out of Vicenza, Italy, has helped get the orphanage back to a fully operational and livable space again.
"The 173rd Airborne Brigade has alway been very responsive," said Nils Students, who coordinates and organizes projects for the U.S. Embassy. "Ever since I first worked with them a year ago, their deeds have been recognized and noticed by the community."
The Sky Soldiers, who were the first to deploy to Poland and the Baltic States in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve following the situation in Ukraine back in 2014, use their time here to not only train with allies and partners, but help out in the community.
During this particular occasion, Soldiers from the brigade's 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment and 54th Brigade Engineer Battalion were on hand to assist with carpentry work, which ranged from spackling and repainting walls to replacing doors; reassuring a better quality of life for the orphanage's tenants.
Sgt. 1st Class Zachery Rieck, a platoon sergeant for the 54th BEB, said being able to help was a welcomed opportunity by him and his Soldiers, as it allowed them to sharpen up on their own engineering skills, but also put a good foot forward and serve as ambassadors for their nation.
"If you really think about who we are as an Army, and even a culture, a lot of Soldiers come from situations where we really benefited from the help of others," said Rieck, a Mattoon, Ill., native. "So to be able to give back to other people who need it is going to be a lasting memory for everyone."
For Spc. Cheikhou Ngom, who has been in the U.S. Army for only seven months, being able to "give back" is something that he has valued during his upbringing.
"I've seen poverty and people that do not have the opportunity to have the things we take for granted," said Ngom, the Atlanta native whose family moved from Senegal, Africa five years ago. "Being able to come to the U.S., become a Soldier, then come to Latvia to help people that I can relate with, that is something that I would never hesitate to do. As Soldier, it is our job to show people that we are here to maintain peace. It is a blessing to be a part of this."
Students, who was born to Latvian parents in the U.S., said it is the values Americans put into volunteering that allows the Soldiers to use this opportunity as a type of mentorship; leaving a lasting impression on not only the children, but the populace.
"The kids always have big smile on there faces and are happy to see the Soldiers," Students concluded. "They know the Soldier intentions are good."
Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade are currently deployed throughout Europe as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, an ongoing, multinational partnership focused on joint training and security cooperation between the U.S. and other NATO allies.
Visit the Operation Atlantic Resolve website for up-to-date photos and information.