CAMP ADAZI, Latvia -- In a rural community where the average winter temperature stays well below freezing, simple necessities become all the more important. Hours are spent laboriously chopping and stacking firewood to provide heat during the frigid months ahead. For some, the need becomes nearly impossible to fulfill.
Paratroopers assigned to Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, volunteered their time stacking firewood at Berzupes Special Needs Boarding School in Dobele, Latvia, Jan. 17, 2017.
The project began two months ago when U.S. Ambassador Nancy Bikoff Pettit visited the school and met with Dobele Mayor Andrejs Spridzans and the Berzupes School director. Together they identified a need for firewood to support the students and provide a comfortable learning environment throughout the winter season.
Chosen Company Paratroopers along with Latvian National Guardsman, helped fulfill that need by cutting, collecting, and stacking enough wood to heat the school over the next two years.
"This is a school for children with special needs and normally they just have one worker here," Pettit said. "The U.S. Soldiers, Latvian counterparts and U.S. Embassy staff have done in two days, what it takes months for one person to do."
Through collaboration, the outreach program has not only alleviated stress for the school personnel but has also afforded the Paratroopers a chance to make connections in the local community.
"It's nice to take a break from training and do something for other people," said Spc. Sean Boer, Paratrooper, C Co., 2nd Bn., 503rd Inf. Regt. "It's good to show that we aren't here just to train but that we are also here to help the Latvians out on a personal level."
The Paratroopers' hard work did not go unnoticed.
Appreciative young smiles welcomed the Paratroopers as they headed indoors to warm up and enjoy a surprise performance from the students. The students showcased their talents with songs and choreographed dance routines.
"It just shows what the two countries can do working together and I think it shows that where there is teamwork, we are stronger for it," Pettit said.
Operation Atlantic Resolve is a U.S. led effort in Eastern Europe that demonstrates U.S. commitment to the collective security of NATO and dedication to enduring peace and stability in the region. The 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy, is the Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, and is capable of projecting forces to conduct a full range of military operations across the United States European, Central and Africa Command areas of responsibility within 18 hours.
U.S. Army Europe is uniquely positioned in its 51 country area of responsibility to advance American strategic interests in Europe and Eurasia. The relationships we build during more than 1,000 theater security cooperation events in more than 40 countries each year lead directly to support for multinational contingency operations around the world, strengthen regional partnerships and enhance global security.